Tag Archives: Joe Holyoake

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 Kirtsy 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

 

True Colours
★★★★

Hope Theatre

True Colours

True Colours

Hope Theatre

Reviewed – 20th May 2019

★★★★

 

“the play zips along with the next gag never more than a moment away”

 

With the preponderance of baggy sportswear on the streets, The Lion King set to be the summer blockbuster and the White House occupied by a smooth-talking sex pest, you could be forgiven for checking your calendar to check we haven’t slipped back into the 1990s.

It’s the start of this hopeful decade in which True Colours is set, a one-act play written and directed by Paul Stevens about a pair of laddy decorators. Ray Stanford (Paul Marlon) and Leon Goodwin (Jack Harding) are the sort of people you don’t see on the stage all too often, but they’re instantly recognisable characters – wise-cracking, wide-accented manual labourers that spend more time on leisurely tea breaks than they do applying a second layer to the doorframes. They both channel that unique brand of hyper-aggressive masculinity where you’re not entirely sure if they’re best friends or if they completely hate each other, ready to immediately jump down the other’s throat at a moment’s notice for misdemeanours as minor as reading a graphic novel or taking body-conditioning classes.

It’s a pretty simple set-up (design by Kala Sinton): two foldable camp chairs, a thermos flask, a couple of paintbrushes and a copy of The Sun brandished brilliantly at one point for a big laugh. The first half is spent shooting the proverbial about mixed-up orders at the caff, all with the chummy humour that’s in vogue with sitcoms at the moment, such as Mum, Lee and Dean, and Home. As the show goes on, however, their respective insecurities and latent ambitions gently fester and eventually bubble up to the surface. Of course, being blokes, the only thing they can’t talk about is their feelings. Both Marlon and Goodwin are spot-on at capturing the awkward way in which some men approach their emotions as if they’re some sort of inconvenience. Their unenthusiastic heart-to-hearts involve half-finished sentences, evaded eye contact and much shoe-shuffling, before one of them loses their rag at a harmless misinterpretation. The pair have developed a convincing chemistry between them, which veers into father-son territory at points. You’re willing them to just hug it out, but that’s not their style.

Clocking in at an hour, the play zips along with the next gag never more than a moment away and there’s certainly no worry of any of the audience reaching for a lazy ‘paint’ and ‘drying’ analogy. Setting it in 1993 doesn’t really add much to the equation, and without the Technotronic blaring out the speakers, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell otherwise. There’s even a mobile phone used at one point, which fans of pedantry will be more than happy to baulk at.

All in all though, Stevens has put his name to an original play that’s both touching and timely, bolstered by two understated performances from the leading pair. They may be handy when it comes to glossing a skirting board, but hopeless when it comes to admitting what they really want from life.

 

Reviewed by Joe Holyoake

 


True Colours

Hope Theatre

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Lesson | ★★★★ | September 2018
Jericho’s Rose | ★★★½ | October 2018
Gilded Butterflies | ★★ | November 2018
Head-rot Holiday | ★★★★ | November 2018
Alternativity | ★★★★ | December 2018
In Conversation With Graham Norton | ★★★ | January 2019
The Ruffian On The Stair | ★★★★ | January 2019
Getting Over Everest | ★★★ | April 2019
Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story | ★★★★★ | April 2019
Uncle Vanya | ★★★★ | April 2019

 

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