September 10, 2018

Punchy monologues are spot on

Solo :
Bitch Boxer by Charlotte Josephine.
Sea Wall by Simon Stephens.
Flying Penguin Productions.
Goodwood Institute Theatre, 166 Goodwood Road, Adelaide.
September 6. Tickets: $22- $32. Bookings 131 246 or online.
Duration 1 hour 50 minutes (including interval)
Until September 16.

Chloe Jackson is an Olympic hopeful. It is 2012 and, for the first time, women’s boxing is an official event for the London Games. Bitch Boxer, Charlotte Josephine’s monologue for UK company Snuff Box Theatre, is a portrait of a young woman who has taken more punches than she knows how to handle.

Bruised and embittered at eleven, when her mother left the family, Chloe’s long-suffering father takes her to his gym for some punching bag anger management : “Focus it in to power and strength and speed. Just me and my dad fighting the world together.” The plan then becomes the Olympics. The crisis comes when he dies suddenly, just prior to her qualifying bout, and Chloe has to muster more than seems possible.

In Simon Stephens’ Sea Wall, Alex a successful London photographer is telling us about his life. He describes family holidays with his wife Helen, and cherished daughter Lucy, visiting his father-in-law Arthur, in the South of France. The two men go diving, deep down to the sea wall; for the narrator it is thrilling and invigorating. But from there, Alex’s story becomes an unforeseen journey into an abyss of grief.

In this splendid double bill, Solo, Flying Penguins director David Mealor has put together two outstanding theatre works which remind us once again how potent carefully-fashioned monologues can be. The Goodwood Institute studio is a simple space but also a transformative one. Kathryn Sproul’s set is stylishly minimalist; Chris Petridis’ lighting washes the action both unobtrusively and with startling effect.

The ably-directed performances are simply terrific. Jordan Cowan, as Chloe, captures the rolling cadence of the East London Leytonstone accent as she moves with the emotional feints and weaves of the boxing analogy. The anger is present but there other shadings also.

When Chloe recalls her father holding her hand, she caresses the scarlet boxing glove with paradoxical tenderness. Recalling her impulsive rejection of her devoted suitor Jamie, we feel the keenness of regret at the repetition of old damaging patterns.
Will Spartalis’s sound design seamlessly threads stadium hum, boxing gym drills, bells, whistles and a softly thrumming bass rhythm.

As Alex, Renato Musolino vividly presents Stephens’ suave, well- pleased character, enjoying life’s good fortune – all the more to contrast the sickening shift in destiny. He begins with affability and descends into desolation. Composer Quentin Grant’s subtly surging seascapes and piano meditations prefigure the drama and our consternation only deepens as Alex’s story drifts further from familiar shores and comfortable explanations.

“Punchy monologues are spot on”, The Australian, September 10, 2018, p.14.

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