Review: Glory at The Dukes by Michelle Blade

Glory. Josh Hart (Dan) with Joshua Leyster (Ben) in the ring. Photo: Andrew Billington.
Glory. Josh Hart (Dan) with Joshua Leyster (Ben) in the ring. Photo: Andrew Billington.

British wrestling is seeing a resurgence across the UK but it is certainly not something I would ordinarily want to watch on a Friday night.

So it was with trepidation that I came to The Dukes to watch Glory, set in a decrepit gym somewhere in the north of England and featuring Jim ‘Glorious’ Glory and amateur wrestlers Dan, Ben and Sami.

Enter Ben (played by Joshua Leyster) a former soldier who had served in Afghanistan and had come to the gym to box.

His encounter with the owner of the gym, Jim Glory, would change his life forever.

Then we were introduced to Dan (played by Josh Hart), who wanted to be a baby face wrestler (a wrestler who is considered a good guy or crowd favourite) but didn’t even have a wrestling partner until Ben came along.

Jim Glory (played by Jamie Smelt), who owns Glory’s Gym, is a brash, loud character, a washed-up former wrestler who now trains lads in the gym.

The interaction between Jim, Dan, Ben and Sami is what makes the play so good.

At first the relationship between Dan and Ben is very toxic, with them throwing each other round the ring and casting racial slurs at each other, but eventually they grow to like and respect each other.

Sami (played by Ali Azhar), is a wrestler from Syria, a refugee who has fled his country.

He simply wants to wrestle in the gym but with Jim Glory’s guidance, is sent to a wrestling competition in Blackpool to raise money for the gym.

But does he make it? You would have to watch to find out.

With choice language from the start, this play certainly didn’t pull any punches - but it released a rollercoaster of emotions.

I laughed so much my sides hurt, I felt tears welling in my eyes at particularly emotive scenes and I also felt a little uncomfortable at times.

However, I felt I witnessed something very special - and the acting was superb. For a play to invoke so many emotions in just a couple of hours, it must be doing something right.

Playwright Nick Ahad has to be commended for this work of utter brilliance.

Glory is at The Dukes until March 2 before touring nationally.

Call 01524 598500.