THE FANCY

Halifax, August 1815, 20,000 people, two fighters, one winner.

Thousands of people have gathered on the outskirts of the town to watch the most popular, but illegal, sport of the day, boxing. Meet the lovers, followers and addicts of the sport, including three finely dressed gentlemen, known as 'The Fancy'. A new play by Angela Clare, about what we sacrifice for those we love.

ABOUT THE PLAY

I came across The Fancy and pugilism when researching Lord Byron's poetry a few years ago. I instantly loved the term The Fancy as a title, and the idea of these gentlemen who loved boxing and financed it, even though it was illegal and dangerous. The period of the play is fascinating to me, with political and religious turmoil and wars overseas. The standards of living were poor and boxing provided an escapism for so many people. When I found out that thousands of people turned out to watch boxing matches, I realised the scale of the sport. Those who took part were heroes and the fighters came from all walks of life and could find themselves with riches and fame. I then discovered Pierce Egan, who features heavily in the play as a kind of narrator figure. Egan wrote 'Boxiana', a sporting bible on the subject. He was a hugely popular writer, focussing on the lives of the working classes and left great accounts of boxing matches and the boxers themselves. With this backdrop I allowed my imagination to wander and thought about how it would be for someone from here in Yorkshire to have become Champion of all England, and in turn, where do you go from that? Could you settle back into everyday life? A situation faced by many successful athletes and 'celebrities' whose fame (and money) does not last.

Although Bear, the former Champion of all England is the central character and the catalyst for the play, really it's Joanna's story we follow and the decisions she faces. Does she stand by the man she loves, even though he has lost her money and independence, and deserted her when she needed him? Or does she take an opportunity to start again and head back 'home' to where she was from before she met Bear? The characters are all involved in or affected by Bear's ill-fated return to the boxing ring, but each have their own story and struggles to overcome.

THE PLAY'S PROGRESS SO FAR

I had help developing this play from Jonathan Hall and members of Script Yorkshire at a development weekend at Whitestone Art. A group of wonderful actors and writers helped me bring the characters to life and up the stakes in the play, including Richard Galloway, Beryl Nairn and Emma Leah Golding, who all later took part in the rehearsed reading, shown below.

I was offered rehearsal space and a performance evening at Square Chapel in Halifax for a rehearsed reading. Nine actors who I had mostly worked with previously on a rnage of productions, kindly gave their time and enthusiam to take part and the (very lively!) reading was directed by Olwen May and was very well received.

I have now taken on board some great feedback and extended the play to full length and will be seeking funding and potentially a partner theatre to take this to full production.

REHEARSED READING - Wednesday 7 March 2018, at Square Chapel, Halifax, directed by Olwen May and followed by a discussion.

CAST - Richard Galloway, Simon Reece, Beryl Nairn, Darren Jeffries, Emma Leah Golding, Finn Ella, Sam Gannon, Harry Lodge, Danny Williams and Angela Clare.

Copyright Angela Clare 2018