All the Guts, Heart & Glory - A Review on No Guts, No Heart, No Glory

NO GUTS, NO HEART, NO GLORY REVIEW - By Aliyah Holder

Stepping into the arena I had no expectations of what I was about to watch, after all I’d heard good things about the play but not enough to form an preconceived opinion or expectation.

I was, however, pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the interactivity of the show, I felt engulfed within a somewhat bizarre situation. The Promenade was a bold move and it worked, if the show was any longer than 60 minutes I’m not so sure it would have worked so well but it made the audience feel they were part of the play.

No Guts, No Heart, No Glory felt more like a live art installation opposed to theatrical performance due to its interactivity, sporadic poly-vocal scenes and distinctly separate narratives, this is not a bad thing may I add. It’s Common Wealth’s mission, the company who put on this production, to make “site-specific theatre events that are political and contemporary - based in the present day - the here and now. We make work that if relevant and addresses concerns of our times.” and that’s exactly what they did with No Guts, No Heart, No Glory. They created current theatre that is switched on to the socio-political climate and telling real people’s stories with guts, heart and representation of an underrepresented demographic. p.s. representation is one of my favourite things of all time so I guess you could say I was sold.

I enjoyed the different stories being told, it meant that one diaspora’s experiences were not homogenised based on faith and background and that fact in itself is a powerful message for modern theatre, not sticking to lazy stereotypes and cultural archetypes empowered the performance and the performers. On the other hand the individual and sometimes sporadic narratives mean that it was difficult to grasp what was going on at times or where parts fit into the overall plot. It’s safe to say the stories and set kept us on our toes, literally (grab a ticket to the show to see what I mean).

One story that particularly struck a chord was that of the young arranged marriage played by Saira Tabasum. It was bold, brave and a reflection of reality - I know these girls, some of them are my good friends, they marry young to make their parents happy and Saira accurately portrayed the thought process I’ve seen many come. There was beauty and honesty in this storytelling. It felt genuine instead of forced which can occasionally be the case.  

Another gripping scene (that I have personally dubbed) was “the running scene”, where one of the actresses ran consistently for 3 minutes and proceeded to launch into a speech, both out of breath and passionate to be heard. These recurring aspects of physical exercise were genius and cleverly placed to represent the reality of being in a gym whilst emphasizing the the political and cultural power these girls held and were empowered to dispel norms, perceptions and theatrical boundaries.

Moving onto the dancing scene, which in my opinion was most definitely the most iconic part of the play. It felt as if the performers were being brought together after the lack of communication between them throughout the play and during their own personal narratives.

This key cohesive mechanism brought the whole experience to a conclusion and was extremely powerful to watch. The end screening of female boxers of all ages, projected on a towel was the perfect ending, leaving the audience feeling uplifted and affected by the boundaries broken by 5 young boxers who just happened to be female and Muslim.

I wish them all the success with their coming international tour and venturing off to University. I’d also urge everyone and anyone reading this to book your tickets and let me know what you thought about No Guts, No Heart, No Glory.

'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' is currently playing at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre until Saturday 12th September. Tickets can be purchased via the Birmingham REP’s Box Office.


Aliyah Holder

Spoken word artist. Passionate about history and green juice.