A poignant play tackles the issue of WW1 conscription

A season of new writing at the Devonshire Park Theatre continues with the latest play from Siobhán Nicholas; White Feather Boxer, this world premiere from Take the Space will be performed in Eastbourne on Friday 27 and Saturday 28 May.

This affecting play is especially poignant as it’s the centenary of the passing of the Conscription Act in 1916 which made it compulsory for men to fight in active service for the war effort. It is an extraordinary story about imparting wisdom, finding courage, understanding bravery and learning what’s worth fighting for.

Set in Bethnal Green is a story about Boxing, the bravest of sports and the courage of the Conscientious Objectors of WW1.

It’s April 1967: the heavyweight boxing champion of the world, Muhammad Ali, defies the US Military by refusing to fight in Vietnam. Meanwhile in a shabby flat, an elderly boxing trainer, hears the news and recalls his own dilemmas of WW1, when Conscription sent pacifists to prison or the firing squad; when he, at the peak of his boxing career and physical prowess, made a choice. Can Jimmy still be a contender and fight his demons from the past? And in the meantime - does he have the strength or even the patience to tame a wild young demon from the present?

Writer and director Siobhán Nicholas explains: “I wanted to explore – and honour – the psyche of the boxer and also capture the culture of the ring; I had a hunch that focusing on a retired boxer who has a very personal association with conscientious objection could allow me to come close to defining the qualities of bravery and duty.”

The white feather became a symbol of cowardice for any man who didn’t sign up to join the war effort, women were encouraged to present men of fighting age with a white feather if they were not wearing a uniform to shame them into signing up.

Now 100 years on from this first momentous shift in war policy Siobhán Nicholas points a spotlight on this important issue of conscription, contentious objectors and cruelty of it all. White Feather Boxer runs on Friday 27 and Saturday 28 May, nightly at 7.45pm and Saturday 2.30pm matinee.

Tickets £13.50, call the box office on 01323 412000.