Tag Archives: Celeste Dodwell

The Sweet Science of Bruising

Wilton’s Music Hall

The Sweet Science of Bruising

The Sweet Science of Bruising

Wilton’s Music Hall

Reviewed – 7th June 2019



“Now in a venue every bit as grand as the writing deserves, The Sweet Science of Bruising is a gripping spectacle”


If you were given a minute to name as many stories about boxing as you could, you’d probably get into double figures. After all, there were six Rocky films alone. However, if this was narrowed down to women’s boxing, you might get Million Dollar Baby and then hit a wall.

In ‘The Sweet Science of Bruising’, Joy Wilkinson has written a worthy addition to this untapped canon. The play follows four women from different stratum of Victorian society who take up fisticuffs for a plethora of reasons: to champion women’s equality, to overcome domestic abuse or just because they’re good at lamping people. The first act romps along with the sort of feelgood factor – all upper cuts and corsets – that wouldn’t be out of place in the sort of Britcom film starring Gemma Arterton. However, things take a turn for the darker after the interval and there are several devastating moments that take the wind out of you.

The production premiered at Southwark Playhouse last October and since then, you can tell it’s been honed further, with the overall pacing now as lean as a boxer weighing in pre-fight. Some of the dialogue is ladled on a bit thick, but only to minor detriment. The main change is, of course, the venue and it’s difficult to imagine anywhere more fitting to stage it than Wilton’s Music Hall. Built in real life only ten years before the play was set, the venue certainly adds a seedy realness to the underground fighting in the script. Director Kirsty Patrick Ward utilises the space brilliantly. One climatic fight scene has the majority of the ten-strong cast rushing in and out of the wings and onto the balconies in such an explosive manner that it has your eyes darting about like a dog watching a volleyball match. Even the subtle touches are there too – a layer of dry ice hangs in the air like the sort of deep Victorian smog in which Jack the Ripper lurked.

Credit must go to Kate Waters, the fight director – not a title you see on a programme all too often. What could have easily looked like drama school graduates pulling on boxing gloves for the first time actually looked fairly convincing. In fact, Fiona Skinner – who was difficult to prise your eyes off as the hyperactive northern lass Polly Stokes – looked like she could be quite handy in the ring if the whole thesp thing doesn’t work out. What’s more, while it seems churlish to pick out a male actor’s performance for particular praise in a play all about female empowerment, Owen Brenman is especially amusing as the verbose Svengali figure who organises the bouts.

Now in a venue every bit as grand as the writing deserves, The Sweet Science of Bruising is a gripping spectacle that never drops in quality and doesn’t shirk in getting stuck into the burning injustices of the time.


Reviewed by Joe Holyoake

Photography by Mitzi de Margary


The Sweet Science of Bruising

Wilton’s Music Hall until 29th June


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream | ★★★½ | June 2018
Sancho – An act of Remembrance | ★★★★★ | June 2018
Twelfth Night | ★★★ | September 2018
Dietrich – Natural Duty | ★★★★ | November 2018
The Box of Delights | ★★★★ | December 2018
Dad’s Army Radio Hour | ★★★★ | January 2019
The Good, The Bad And The Fifty | ★★★★ | February 2019
The Pirates Of Penzance | ★★★★ | February 2019
The Shape Of the Pain | ★★★★★ | March 2019
The Talented Mr Ripley | ★★★★ | May 2019


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com




The Hope Theatre

IN OTHER WORDS at The Hope Theatre


“This is one impressive play you will never forget”


We first meet Jane and Arthur, the two characters in this one act debut play from Matthew Seager, upon entering the theatre. They are seemingly a care free couple enjoying some time together in their living room. As the audience settles, there’s a dramatic change, Arthur suddenly slumps into his chair, his body twisted and his speech incoherent …

In Other Words follows the couple’s journey from ‘the incident’ of how they met to the tragic situation they now find themselves in. This is a story about dementia and unconditional love.

In Other Words

The duo playing the couple, Celeste Dodwell and Matthew Seager are both young actors. At times, without tuning in to fleeting references or referring to the programme, it’s not always clear what period of time has elapsed and indeed how old the characters are. This comes across as a deliberate ploy to make you think and to raise awareness that this cruel disease itself, takes little notice of age.

The scenes flit, via white noise, muffled words and flickering lights, between Arthur being his usual cheery self, and each of the progressive stages of his illness. 

In Other Words

At times humorous, with Arthur’s early forgetfulness jokingly brushed aside as male stupidity, the laughs slowly become fewer. We are taken on Arthur’s tear jerking one way trip through doctor’s appointments, diagnosis and prognosis, to the hollow shell of a man he becomes.

“It feels like he is leaving me”, Jane says as she struggles to cope with Arthur’s increasingly challenging behaviour. Yet despite the extreme pressure she is under, only once do we see her snap, an action she instantly regrets. This is a man she still dearly loves even though to him, she is a stranger.

By the final scene, the only thing left that invokes any semblance of the old Arthur is the sound of hearing  ‘their song’ Fly me to the Moon. That one enduring link to the moment they met, now being all that is left from a lifetime of memories.

For such a moving piece, at times needing total quiet to portray the raw emotion from the actors, The Hope has a few issues. There was a lot of noise from downstairs and being on a main road, the occasional siren or hooting of horns interrupts the moment. Not a lot that can be done about this as it is a pub theatre in a busy location, but this was my one and only issue with the performance.

Both characters are truly believable, a credit to the actors involved, and director Paul Brotherton. Matthew Seager captures every subtle detail of Arthur’s spiralling decline to perfection. You’ll want to rush out and hug Jane, so convincing is Celeste Dodwell’s harrowing performance.

This is an incredibly well structured work. Seager’s research into the condition and his facilitation of sensory workshops in a dementia care home (which showed him how music can build links to reality), have enabled him to make this a terrifyingly accurate picture of an illness affecting so many. 





This is one impressive play you will never forget.


Reviewed 2nd March 2017


In Other Words

by Matthew Seager


is on at The Hope Theatre until 18th March


Production photography by Alex Fine


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