by Bryony Lavery.
Frantic Assembly Tour to 1 December 2012.
Runs 1hr 35min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 25 October at Sherman Cymru Cardiff.
A knockout script and production.
From England to the capital of Wales, to see the National Theatre Scotland, co-producers of Frantic Assembly’s 2010 production, still touring strong on its 4th cast. Frantic’s creative core, directors Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett, enlisted playwright Bryony Lavery to script this piece about the path to boxing heights, and how it can all come crashing to the ground.
Her script matches dexterity with perception. A generation or two back this could have been a heartening, heart-wrenching realistic account: from Gorbals to glory, with a cautionary conclusion.
But Frantic, and Lavery, do more, fitting their piece’s structure to its story, creating through technology the heady physicality of the boxer’s punishing hours of practice in the ring, alongside the development of rivalries, and new-emerging assertion from the shadow of a demanding, godlike trainer’s flaws.
This non-naturalism, mirrored in the bare boxing-ring stage (no ropes as concession to actuality over suggestion), allows a kaleidoscopically-shifting series of images to emerge, merge and re-emerge as young Scots lad Cameron Burns sets out to fulfil his enthusiasm and skill as a boxer, before meeting his destiny and being recycled to his hard-working mother, the one still point in a world of jabbing fists and cutting rivalries.
Lavery gives her the first clear view, as her lad comes out in the wash, his whole life calibrated by the sport. Julie Wilson Nimmo finds a spark in Carlotta’s downtrodden life, and sympathy when she’s left picking up the pieces in which the sport leaves her son.
And boxing’s no life for a girl. However committed and skilled, Margaret Ann Bain’s lean, keen Dina will never be picked for promotion by Keith Fleming’s raspingly demanding trainer; being admitted to his class is an achievement; being passed-over her fate, to be brought on as glamour-girl parading the ring when the men fight.
Video images shift from excited recording of boxing’s rapid dynamics to reflecting the slipping consciousness of a punched head, by when even the stage is whirling, while lighting and music create their own whirl alongside a rough briskness founded in the precision-energy choreography of Frantic’s finely-assembled performances.
Dina Massie: Margaret Ann Bain.
Ainsley Binnie: Ali Craig.
Bobby Burgess: Keith Fleming.
Ajay Chopra: Taqi Nazeer.
Carlotta Burns: Julie Wilson Nimmo.
Cameron Burns: Stuart Ryan.
Steve George/Neil Neill: Matthew Trevannion.
Directors/Choreographers: Scott Graham, Steven Hoggett.
Designer: Laura Hopkins.
Lighting: Andy Purves.
Sound: Carolyn Downing.
Video: Ian William Galloway.
Movement: Eddie Kay.
Dialect/Voice coach: Richard Ryder.
Associate director: Neil Bettles.
23-27 Oct 7.30pm Sherman Cymru Cardiff 029 2064 6900 www.shermancymru.co.uk
31 Oct-3 Nov 7.30pm Mat
Thu & Sat 2.30pm Dundee Rep Theatre 01382 223530 www.dundeerep.co.uk
6-10 Nov 7.30pm Mat Thu 1.30pm; Sat 2pm West Yorkshire Playhouse (Quarry Theatre)Leeds 0113 213 7700 www.wyp.org.uk
13-17 Nov 7.30pm Mat Sat 2pm Northern Stage Newcastle-upon-Tyne 0191 230 5151 www.northernstage.co.uk
20-24 Nov 7.30pm Nuffield Theatre Southampton 023 8067 1771 www.nuffieldtheatre.co.uk
27 Nov-1 Dec 7.45pm Mat Wed & Fri 2pm Hull Truck Theatre 01482 323638 hulltruck.co.uk