UNTIL YOU HEAR THAT BELL
by Sean Mahoney.
BAC (Members’ Library) Lavender HILL SW11 5TN To 27 June 2015.
Runs 1hr 5min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7223 2223.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 17 June.
Pacy account pulls no punches.
In the 1954 film Carmen Jones the bullfighter of Bizet’s opera becomes a boxer, singing Oscar Hammerstein’s lyric “Stan’ up an fight until you hear de bell”. Which gives Sean Mahoney his title (with 1950s ‘Black-speak’ removed). Though the theme of Mahoney’s show comes earlier in Hammerstein’s lyric, “You ask me, how’s it done?/I got a trainer man/Who taught me all I need to know”.
Sean’s trainer is his dad, who gets the family involved Sean learns to dodge punches by avoiding his little sister’s slaps (alas, she never quite picks up the spirit of training, insisting on striking the last blow). And when an early spar leads to a punch a surprise that has him walk away, it’s dad who asks the all-important question whether it hurt.
Which leads Sean, more injured in pride than body, to realise he wants to return to the ring. And the sense of achievement grows with experience, till he’s the winner able to be affable after a knockabout and the one to deliver a casual “Good spar”.
Playing much of the show backed by a Boxing Clock marking-out life in 3-minute rounds and 1-minute rest periods – which pace but don’t regulate his performance – Mahoney ducks and dives through the range of emotions the life brings. A sense of intimacy with the character grows despite the isolated individual on stage.
Physical energy taken for granted – skipping practice is enough to take most breaths away – deliberately diverted thoughts spoken while waiting for a contest to begin, the agony of delay, quiet, suddenly inserted apologies when accidentally coming too close to someone, are all thrown into the seamless experience which ends suddenly. You really have to want to go on doing it.
And there’s the context; the sheep-and-goats school or college options evening, where a chance to do drama is another mark of someone wanting an active life. One accompanied here by a richness of words which an actor might at times deliver with more clarity, but could hardly rival for integration of vocal and physical energies and an ease born of having lived the script.
Performer: Sean Mahoney.
Director: Yael Shavit.
Movement: Helen Heaslip.