Review: Fighting Irish. Belgrade Theatre. Coventry

Fighting Irish by Jamie McGough is a Coventry family’s fight for identity centred around the world of boxing and nationality.

The Irish family drama proves to be a powerful play of pugilism and packs plenty punches. It is hard to believe that this piece of theatre is a professional debut by McGough so strong and compelling is the storytelling and the dramatic ways of carrying the narratives forward.

As we can see from the images a life -sized boxing ring is the realistic and metaphorical arena and the Coventry Belgrade Theatre B2 studio space has been turned into an In The Round theatre space.

The whole cast work tremendously hard in executing the piece and the dynamic boxing scenes are exemplary in their expressive danger. The mix of realistic, suggested and lighting enhanced pugilism works well to demonstrate the art of the sport and the tough talent of its practitioners. The superb cast are Louis Ellis (Jarlath McGough), Christian James (Dr Sean McGough / Official), Daniel Krikler (Martin Vincent McGough), Peter Losasso (Jimmy McGough), Andrew Fettes (Billy Duffin/Sullivan), Keith Dunphy (Alderman John Gannon), George McCluskey (Garda Patrick Dooley), Dan McGarry (Joe Lawless/commentator/Judge Martin), Shady Murphy (Eileen McGough), Colm Gormley (Martin Joe McGough/Garda), Eddie Payne (Jim Christie /Benny Laws/Adrian Hardiman.)

Corey Campbell’s excellent direction, fight direction and co-movement direction totally brings the the piece thrillingly to life. The raucous percussive nature of the opening sets the tone for the rest of the play. The inclusion of live Irish music, humour and passionate song gives Fighting Irish real heart as do the raised up bodies in the dynamic highly theatrical court scenes. Most touching are the eulogies at the finale bringing home that this is based on true lives and true boxing histories stretching from the mid 1970s as Sean, Martin and Jarlath McGough win a number of national boxing titles and international call ups. Fighting Irish is about pride and struggles in the Anglo Irish communities originating in Galway and Dublin, dealing with violence and religious prejudice during The Troubles in Ireland and Britain. Much is made of how Irish families endured and fought prejudice on the streets of Coventry and the district of Tile Hill. Whilst the people of Coventry should be justifiably proud of this new local play, its themes are universal and a renewing sense of personal self improvement after hardships rings out loud and clear after the last round bell has rung. It’s a knockout of a play.

Fighting Irish runs until 16th April.

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