White Feather Boxer
A play about a Boxer who was also a Conscientious Objector

Writer and Director Siobhán Nicholas
Cast Chris Barnes as Jimmy and Julia Masli as Jo (2017), Polly Jordan as Jo (2016)
Associates Michael Bogdanov; David Fielder; Sian Webber
Dramaturg Chris Hannan
Design Gus Munro,Julie McDonald, Penny Zikic
Costumes Julie Mcdonald

Our Mentors were

We had research support from Boxing Evolution in Maidenhead; Slough and Windsor QuakerMeeting, Jordans Quaker Meeting and the Brighton Ex Boxers Association.

Our Funders were

White Feather Boxer is funded by Arts Council England Grants for the Arts. Research was initially seeded by Greenhouse, a Farnham Maltings initiative with support from Norden Farm Centre for the Arts. 

Background to the play

In this play, I wanted to partner the bravest of ideals with the bravest of sports. On the outset of research in 2014, I wasn’t entirely sure if such a combination could ever have existed in one man; although for me, Barry McGuigan and Manny Pacquiao come close. But during development, in one of our debates with Boxers and Pacifists, I met a Quaker, who, driven by generosity of spirit and some curiosity, researched and discovered that there had been three in the early C20th: three Quakers who had been Boxers.

I had found my Jimmy Mac. Later on our preview tour, we met a C21st Quaker Boxer who came toperformance at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts. 

I have searched my conscience and I find I cannot be true to my belief in my religion by accepting such a call. I have two alternatives: either go to jail or go to the army. But I would like to say that there is another alternative. And that alternative is justice
— Muhammad Ali
War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today” John F Kennedy
— John F Kennedy
Out there, we’ve walked quite friendly up to Death
— Wilfred Owen, First World War Poet
I ain’t never liked violence”
— Sugar Ray Robinson

The Story

It’s April 1967: in a shabby Bethnal Green boxing gym, an elderly trainer hears the news that the heavyweight boxing champion of the world, Muhammad Ali, has defied the US Military by refusing to fight in Vietnam. 

Jimmy reflects on the choice he himself made during WW1, when the Conscription Laws in 1916 sent pacifists to prison or the firing squad: when he, at the peak of his boxing career and physical prowess, stood up for what he believed despite the terrifying consequences.

Now Jimmy faces a new dilemma: a young woman desperately needs his help and is begging to join the gym. Jo is 16; strong, impulsive, angry and ....potentially a brilliant boxer but Jimmy is over 70 now {and still a Quaker}. He doubts if he has the strength or even the patience to coach this wild young scrapper and teach  her discipline and respect.

This story is about imparting wisdom, instilling discipline, finding courage – and learning what’s worth fighting for.

What people have said about White Feather Boxer

Eastbourne Herald; Reviewer: Roger Paine

Brighton-based ‘Take the Space’ chose Devonshire Park Theatre to stage the world premiere of a new play written and directed by Siobhán Nicholas.  No stranger to Eastbourne, where her plays ‘Hanging Hooke’ and ‘Stella’ have been highly praised in recent years, this latest explores the twin themes of pugilism and pacifism. 

Here the pugilist and pacifist is Jimmy (Chris Barnes) who in 1967, is 71 years old and running a boxing club in London’s East End. Jimmy’s prodigy, who he is training in the noble art, is Jo {Polly Jordan}, a 16 year old girl determined to succeed in her chosen sport, “When I box I feel like a person”..

Read more of Roger Paine's review of White Feather Boxer 

Damon Young - a Quaker and also drama teacher at Leighton Park School; as a younger man, he boxed with the ring name “The Quaker” -  in the audience at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts.

My own foray into the ring prompted much debate, interest and discussion at Leighton Park..... . .. I did enjoy the performance, really fascinating characters and a great plot.  Jimmy's line about there being no hate and no war in the gym was very resonant to me and a great summation of the coherence of living to Quaker principles whilst being involved in a violent sport. Of course I write this on the day that we have lost the greatest

Su Shanson {audience member at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park Theatre}

Truly not to be missed.... the play shone. Superb acting, excellent direction and gripping storyline

The story, which encapsulates several inter-related historical topics, could be the subject of a full length novel. Instead, this is a sensitively-crafted play providing unique and thought-provoking theatre.
— Eastbourne Herald, Roger Paine
Chris Barnes and Julia Masli in White Feather Boxer

White Feather Boxer Autumn 2017/ Spring 2018
Burton Taylor Studio, Oxford Playhouse on Thurs 7th and Fri 8th Sept  at 7.30pm

Cramphorn Theatre Chelmsford CM1 Thurs 21st Sept
 www.chelmsford.gov.uk / theatre

The Hawth Studio Crawley RH10 6YZ
Sat 30th Sept

The Myers Studio Epsom Playhouse Epsom on Thurs 12th Oct

Broadway Theatre
Letchworth Garden City SG6 3DD
Thurs 19th Oct

The Everyman Studio Theatre
Cheltenham on Fri and Sat 4th Nov

The Studio, York Theatre Royal on Sat 25th Nov at 7.45pm

Royal and Derngate, Northampton
on Fri 2nd Feb www.royalandderngate.co.uk

Past dates; 2016 previews at
Devonshire Park Theatre

Norden Farm Centre for the Arts
The Mill Studio at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
TOM - The Old Market
Rich Mix Bethnal Green

Chris Barnes and Julia Masli in White Feather Boxer

Tour Package
White Feather Boxer

This production has been devised to accommodate the small scale, midscale and proscenium arch.

Marketing Support: A5 card fliers, A3 and A1 Posters

Flexible Staging: the set depicts a boxing gym: we tour a hanging curtain of lightweight props on wires to hang from an onstage back bar - just upstage of the U/S LX bar.

Take the Space tours a floor cloth which is placed stage-left and a practical punch bag to be suspended approximately downstage right.

There is an assortment of other light props to denote Jimmy’s boxing ring.

Tech Deck: LX and sound are operated by one person from a single position. Sound on our laptop.

Get In on the day of the first performance
Get Out Time – no more than 40 mins.

Performance Fee: £1,000 negotiable and dependant on distance travelled and if over night stays are necessary.

Outreach Work Available: Workshops; Debates prior to the performance and Post Show Discussions are offered where ever possible (Fee Negotiable]