Beautiful Burnout is a visually stunning play, with an energy and beat that are simply electric. Exploring the psychology and physicality of boxing, the piece is full of well-crafted and intelligent ideas. However, at times a glossy, polished effect left me unable to identify with the characters and emotions of the piece. The end of the play, where the audience is finally granted full access to the feelings and themes explored, is utterly heartbreaking – but I felt even this would have been more effective had I grown connected to the characters earlier on.
Bryony Lavery’s script, much like boxing itself, is sharp and energetic. Lavery has created strong and likeable characters, each with their own idiosyncrasies and subtleties. Lavery’s script works very well with Frantic Assembly’s famously brave physical choices, not allowing these to distract from the drama.
The more physical moments were particularly interesting; the boxing moves were echoed brilliantly with short sharp bursts of energetic movement (to say that the actors have unbelievable stamina would be an understatement). Although the cast worked well together, creating a lovely sense of ensemble and understanding, I found myself distracted in the movement sections as at least one cast member was often out of time. Although a more minor point, this did pull my focus out of the moment and onto that individual, as I willed them to speed up or slow down.
The performances were strong but sometimes presentational. Frantic Assembly’s productions are often sensual and whilst Beautiful Burnout was no exception, its tendency to lack accessible emotion and depth added further to the rather glossy feeling of the production. However, I was struck by Margaret Ann Bain’s portrayal of strong and feisty Dina, Julie Wilson Nimmo’s engaging and emotive Carlotta Burns and Stuart Ryan’s tough and ambitious Cameron Burns.
Beautiful Burnout is an enjoyable show and has some incredible use of video, movement and music. The cast work exceptionally hard throughout this piece and there is astonishing physical work evident in each performance. There are ways that this show could be improved but there are also many strengths that far outweigh the flaws. Beautiful Burnout grips and excites.
Beautiful Burnout is on tour nationally until 1 December. This review was from the artsdepot run. For more information on tour dates, venues and to book tickets see the Frantic Assembly website.