Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, Tuesday 9th October, 2012
Bryony Lavery’s rather lyrical story of amateur boxing is brought to invigorating life by Frantic Assembly in this new production, doing the rounds (Doing the rounds! Hah! …suit yourselves). Loud music boxes your ears, bright lights assault your eyes, but what is most stunning is the slick, choreographed moves of this tight cast of six. These movements all stem from boxing and the exercises from training in preparation for boxing – the physical fitness of the actors is incredible; they bring a grace and an insistent intensity to the proceedings.
This is the story of shoplifter and car-borrower Cameron who is reformed by becoming a member of the amateur club run by Bobby Burgess (Keith Fleming as a sort of avuncular sergeant major). There, Cameron meets showboat Ajay The Cobra Chopra (Taqi Nazeer), walking Wikipedia Ainsley (Ali Craig), hothead Neil Neill (Matthew Trevannion) and hardnosed female boxer Dina (Margaret Ann Bain). Cameron ducks and weaves his way into the group and soon Burgess is selecting suitable candidates to turn pro.
This gives rise to concern in Cameron’s mother, in a excellent comic turn from Julie Wilson Nimmo. Her relief over her boy finally getting some structure and discipline in his life is replaced by justifiable fear that he will sustain some serious injury. The play’s title tells us tragedy is coming…
Cameron doesn’t quite make it from rags to riches. Stuart Ryan stands out as the young contender who tries to better himself. Not so much flawed as floored.
Technically, the show is dazzling. The music and lights are secondary to the performances of the actors. Directors Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett use freeze frames and thought tracking to eye-opening effect. Slow motion and a revolving stage add a Matrix-like air to the fight sequences – we are not meant to get caught up in the violence of the match; this is character-led drama and because of this handling, the ending leaves us all the more punch drunk.
A vibrant, slick and tight production. A knockout.