[2014003] Bitch Boxer

[2014003] Bitch Boxer [FringeTIX]

Snuff Box Theatre @ Holden Street Theatres – The Studio

7:30pm, Tue 11 Feb 2014

With the London 2012 Olympics on the horizon, the IOC declared that Women’s Boxing will be an Olympic sport for the first time. Chloe, from suburban Leytonstone in East London, is determined to represent the UK in the ring – after all, the bouts are to be held in Stafford, just down the road… it’s fate, isn’t it?

But after her coach – and father – dies (hmmm… should you warn about spoilers if the event occurs in the first five minutes of the show? … not that anyone reads this!), the emotional turmoil – or lack thereof, as she bottles up her feelings – creates a sense of tension in her character. There’s focus, and lack-of-focus; doe-eyed schoolgirl crushes, and steely-eyed don’t-fuck-with-me determination.

There’s two sides to Chloe, played here by Holly Augustine: there’s the tough-as-nails athlete, a hero-in-waiting, who we’re introduced to in the opening moments of the play as she locks herself out of home and athletically engineers her way back in; but there’s also the cutesy, smitten version of herself, revelling in the adoration provided by her boyfriend. Augustine flits between the two personae with ease, and the transitions seem to be written so as to maximise their contrast; and it’s when the attributes of the two sides of herself get mixed up that the real tension occurs.

Despite the frugal staging – there’s little more to the set than a chair and a boxing ring sketched out in talcum powder – the direction is quite lovely; lighting is tight, and the manner in which the powder gets scuffed around the floor over the course of the hour seems to mirror the frantic nature of the play. The final scenes are a bit of a blur, as Augustine convincingly brawls with an invisible other in the ring; the physicality of her performance is impressive. And the Eminem break in the middle of the show? It’s near-on perfect.

The lovely Martha Lott has brought some cracking bits of theatre from the Edinburgh Fringe to Adelaide in the past; Bitch Boxer was the winner of the 2013 Holden Street Theatres’ Edinburgh Award, and thoroughly deserves a decent audience. It’s a cracking story that, whilst maybe a little thin in exposition, allows for a wonderful performance by Augustine; she should certainly be featuring in any Fringe awards.

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