Q&A with writer Rob Ward as play Gypsy Queen prepares to hit Moss Side boxing club

Gypsy Queen, the new play by awarding winning writer Rob Ward, returns to Manchester for two special off-site performances at Moss Side Fire Station Boxing Club on Sunday, January 27.

The play is the story of ‘Gorgeous’ George O’Connell, a bare-knuckle fighter from a traveller family, and gay boxer Dane ‘The Pain’ Samson. Gypsy Queen is a love story between two fighters who discover their greatest challenge lies outside the ring.

In the run up to the show, MM spoke to writer Rob Ward about the play returning to Manchester, using a Moss Side boxing gym and LGBTQI+ visibility in sport.

With another tour about to start, what does it mean to bring the play back to Manchester?

It means a lot. I’ve been in Manchester for 13 years myself, the genesis of the play is here and the story is set in Manchester. The play has a Mancunian sensibility to it. To launch the tour from a boxing gym in Moss Side is something different. Taking the show to different audiences is something we have done before, it is important to the themes explored in the play.

There are plenty of boxing clubs around the UK, why have you chosen Moss Side Fire Station?

Moss Side Fire Station Boxing Club is going to be the first boxing gym we have used. I’ve been wanting to perform the play in a boxing gym for awhile but I wanted it to be in Manchester. Because of the size of the set it’s a very tourable show, it’s an intimate piece and it suits a studio audience, so we’ve always had the opportunity to take it anywhere. There is a rough and ready aspect to the production that gives it the potential to be enjoyed by different audiences, in different settings.

What can we expect from these special off-site performances?

We are taking the play to the heart of a community. LGBTQI+ visibility and inclusion in sport is one of the messages of the play. Our usual audience will normally agree with the message, so this time we are taking it to people who might not consider themselves part of a theatre crowd. Taking the play to a boxing club in Moss Side gives us the opportunity to take the message to the heart of the sporting community.

There is going to be a family friendly show in the afternoon to bring the play and its message to another new audience. We are targeting a younger demographic. The show is open and inclusive and starts conversations around masculinity and sexuality in the sports industry. I grew up knowing I’m gay in a sports environment without any openly gay sporting role models.

Do you think anything has changed in the conversations around LGBTQI+ visibility in sport since you wrote the play in 2016?

If we’ve moved forward we’ve moved at a snail’s pace. It will take a long time for change to come, it needs a top to bottom outlook to change the whole thing. There are a lot of straight white men in sport and they haven’t had the experiences that bring change.

I think there is hope there. From what I gather, women’s sport is more open to gay athletes. They don’t suffer the same toxic masculinity as men in sport do but there is definitely something to learn from what women’s sport has done. 

*Gypsy Queen is showing at Moss Side Fire Station Boxing Club on Sunday, January 27. You can buy tickets HERE.

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