by Charlotte Josephine.
Tour to 24 May 2014.
Runs 1hr No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 May at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds.
Monodrama that packs a punch.
No wonder this show was a success at the Edinburgh Festival; apart from the Olympic topicality of women’s boxing it was ideal for the Fringe: brief, easy and cheap to install – one actor, one chair, no other set, basic lighting – a physical, fast-paced, high-energy staging-post in a Fringegoer’s crammed diary.
Less predictable is its success, towards the end of a long tour, at the larger, formal Theatre Royal in the floral town of Bury St Edmunds, which duly turned out in its dozens.
Yet Holly Augustine populates the stage with her solo presence, making Leytonstone-bred Chloe Jackson fiercely present in both mental force and physical activity.
Chloe trained as a boxer with her beloved dad, the lodestar of life beyond her fists – the mother who left is despised by Chloe. Any idea boxing is just aggro with ropes around is dismissed as she carefully binds her hands before donning the gloves, in a concentrated, almost delicate operation.
The piece hurtles along from the start, as Chloe locks herself out of the house an hour before she’s due to meet dad for training. The clamber though gardens and over fences to her back window and careful extrication of her keys is graphic as she treads carefully through a garden littered with canine excrement while manoeuvring past the canines of the pit-bull which dropped it.
Success there slams against news of her father’s sudden death. Then there’s the new complexity of Jamie entering her life. Chloe’s pleased but angry that his love, and present of new trainers, threatens her independence.
With stark lighting changes mirroring shifts in mood, Josephine and Augustine keep Chloe sympathetic, in a certainty lasting almost to the end and the head-on challenge of world-class competition.
Ironically, 2012 Olympic flyweight boxing Gold-winner Nicola Adams came from Yorkshire, not next-door to the Stratford stadium, bubbled with happiness and had her mother to thank for enabling her skill to come to light. But that’s just fact; Bitch Boxer is a high-impact exploration of conflicting hopes and anxieties delivered with a constant sense of the emotional currents behind surface behaviour.
Chloe Jackson: Holly Augustine.
Director: Bryony Shanahan.
Lighting: Seth Rock Williams.
Sound: Daniel Foxsmith.