Sherman Cymru, Cardiff
Weds 24 October
words: RACHEL WILLIAMS
As a heavy techno beat pounds through the building to greet audience members as they take their seats, a visceral call to war is the first impression of Beautiful Burnout. Echoing the fast-paced, live-in-the-moment mentality of boxing versus the quiet reality of a fight’s aftermath, the beat then stills to a near silent moment at the appearance of the first cast member.
Every hook, jab, side step and uppercut draws the audience into the unflinching reality of these boxer’s lives. All five are fighting for their place in the world, to be recognised for their skills as individuals, and to reach for the stars away from the grey Glaswegian streets. An entirely human piece, beautifully crafted monologues identify the incredible religious fervour and loyalty a boxer has for his sport; a mother for her son and a woman for her equal standing. Bryony Lavery’s characters are utterly likeable yet completely individual, her script brings sharp humour to even the darkest of places, peppered with witty veiled threats and sneaky below the belt remarks – an unadulterated image of the uncompromising world of boxing gyms.
Swansea-based Frantic Assembly’s unique blend of physical theatre takes each punch to a new level of a fighter’s grace to create dynamic choreography that incorporates everything from star jumps to mountain climbing burpies and flighty footwork. The rotating ring and raised stage adds an extra dimension to the slick choreography creating opposing direction where the audience gains a rare insight to an opponent’s reaction time, a frozen split second for the boxer to make his defence. Backed by ever changing video screens that enhance the action, intensifying the instantaneous movement and short boxing lifespan as it counts down the three minute round. The screens also provide the watery backdrop to the awkward walk home for Dina and Cameron Burns and in all glitz and celebrity glamour, showboating Ajay steps out from behind them as they glitter gold.
The cast are impressive in their art as they work through 90 minutes of an excruciating workout and present the characters flawlessly. Julie Wilson Nimmo is the conflicted mum, Carlota Burns, who relieved her son is off the streets but worried for his safety in the ring sticks her head in the fridge to calm herself and pack her worries into the depths of the icy freezer drawer. Cameron Burns is the boxing latecomer, naturally talented but excitable and easily disappointed. Margaret Ann Bains’s Dina is unequal in the boxing ring to the men and struggling with a chequered, abusive past.
A fantastic, high energy and impressive piece of theatre well worth a watch.
Beautiful Burnout runs at Sherman Cymru until Sat 27 Oct and nationally until Sat 1 Dec.