Shadow Boxing from Shock and Awe Tours
John O'Donaghue takes a ringside seat at this bruising performance
Boxing, said Frank Bruno, is show business with blood. In Shock and Awe Tours’ Showcase production for decibel 2011, Shadow Boxing, we witness what the scars on the inside feel like.
Written by James Gaddas and performed by Jonathan Collis-Scurll, the piece centres around the boxer Flynn’s shot at the middleweight title. Himself the son of a boxer, Flynn wants the belt badly.
The show opens on a set dominated by a punch bag dangling from the ceiling, the small space at once doubling as gym, ring, corner, and the places boxers hang out – bars, casinos, parks. Parks?
Shadow Boxing takes a turn after Flynn wins a bout on his way to the big showdown with his rival Richter, the Perfect Picture, the boxer who stands in his way, the man Flynn wants ‘respect’ from, the Champ. Flynn goes to a bar and has a one night stand. Delicately, tenderly, lyrically he describes making love – his date’s pale skin, the blue eyes, the sense of intimacy after all the brutality, his cock.
For Flynn is gay. And it’s at this point that the piece veers into uncharted territory. He now has to confront not only the brutality of boxing, but the brutality of attitudes to homosexuality inside and outside the ring. For like the ring, the closet is a dangerous place. He’s soon outed after cruising in the park. Now he is a pariah. His dreams of winning the belt, of coming out on live TV, of being a champion and gaining the most crucial respect of all – self-respect – are shattered.
But who says all fights have to take place through the ropes? In a startling finale he has the showdown with Richter he’s been longing for.
Collis-Scurll gives a searing performance as Flynn, and Gaddas’s vividly theatrical script brings us into Flynn’s world of liniment, sweat, adrenaline, and fear as surely as having a ringside seat would.
This is Raging Bull confronting a much bigger taboo than Jake La Motta’s brutalising. For what bigger fight could anyone have than the fight to be truly themselves in a world as extreme as the world of boxing?
A powerful, visceral piece of theatre.