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Bitch Boxer
Published on Wednesday, 08 May 2013

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5 stars

Marlborough Theatre (venue website)
4-6, 25-27 May, 7:30pm-8:30pm
Reviewed by Darren Taffinder

 Warning: Contains strong language.
 Suitable for age 16+ only.

I’m not a big boxing fan; whether the competitors are male or female, the sport just leaves me cold. After seeing Bitch Boxer, though, I wanted to strap on gloves and get straight into the ring. This was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen – and I don’t mean just at the Fringe; I mean that as an hour-long piece of theatre, it was close to being flawless.

At the centre of the play is writer and performer Charlotte Josephine. Her high-energy portrayal of the damaged boxer Chloe, trying to make it the 2012 Olympics, was mesmerising. It was almost like watching a dance – she never stopped moving – and one scene towards the end with a skipping rope was just astonishing.  I never thought jumping over a rope could be so tense.

This wasn’t just a physical performance, though. Josephine complete inhibits Chloe, a fantastic creation: difficult, spiky, hard to like at times, but deeply vulnerable. You’d want her to win even if you stripped out the whole performance, and just read the script off the printed page. The rhythm of the tale, the way it’s plotted, and Josephine’s use of words all form a master-class in story telling, and at the end you’ll weep, because she has genuinely made you care.

I also admired how effectively the play used lighting and music, particularly to emphasise a change of scene or an emotional shift. Any play that includes both Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues and Eminem’s Lose Yourself deserves kudos for that fact alone, but the songs also felt true to Chloe’s character. This show is a great example of how all the elements of theatre can come together and enhance the story.

If I had any criticism, it’s that some of the secondary characters didn’t feel fully realised. I didn’t quite believe in Chloe’s posh mum, and Len her trainer seemed a little too sanguine, almost a caricature. It’s difficult in a one-hour, one-person show to flesh out every character, but I’d have liked to see her mother at least as a more well-rounded person. Maybe even to show some regret.

However, my only real complaint is about the couple behind me whispering. This drives me mad – the Marlborough is not your living room – and please, stop rustling your sweet wrappers. Can people go sixty minutes without eating?

It’s not often you leave a show and immediately want to watch it again. Bitch Boxer is back towards the end of May; if I have one recommendation, it’s to book your ticket now.

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