When I was told I was going to see a one-man show about boxing, I was dubious to say the least and I had many preconceptions of what the show was going to be. Personally, I wasn’t looking forward to it due to it being a one-man show, and becaue I was going to be standing in a stuffy boxing gym for 50 minutes.
However, Broken Souls has somehow been able to take these uncomfortable aspects and turn them into the things that make the show so good. The audience becomes part of the show; having to move around the gym to miss getting hit by a punch bag while Flynn (Alex Harries) is training really is exciting and there are a few near misses if people don’t look out.
From the moment you get on the coach from Chapter Arts Centre to Llanrumney Boxing Gym, the atmosphere starts to build. A video of the famous Calzaghe vs. Lacy fight is shown and really gets the audience ready for a fight. But this play isn’t just about boxing. It’s about Flynn’s struggle to realise who he actually is and to escape the shadow of his father’s failed boxing career. Although the play is obviously based around boxing, the sport itself is used more as a vehicle to show Flynn’s journey than to teach the audience a quick upper cut.
The issue of homophobia within boxing is brought up as Flynn discovers his own sexuality and as he begins to realise that it’s not the respect of the boxing community that he craves but self-respect. By the end of the piece a calm falls, as Flynn is finally able to gain this. I greatly enjoyed this piece and one thing that I believe added to it immensely was the lighting used. The techniques used almost told the story itself with the use of changes in colour and strength. It also helped the audience keep up with the timing of the show and the movement from one section to the next.
One thing that really makes this production stand out is its obvious community spirit. It is the first production from Broken Souls, a company created to show Shadow Boxing. Although the company was put together originally for putting on this show, Broken Souls has been so successful (selling out for the majority of the run) that it is now exploring ideas for its next production. I for one can’t wait to see what it does next.
Shadow Boxing is, in essence, a play from which you don’t get what you’re expecting, but for that you will enjoy it more. It will push you out of your comfort zone, but in a good way, and make you think about boxing and the issues surrounding it in a completely different way. Plus after watching it in the heat of the boxing gym you get to climb back onto the air conditioned coach that returns you to the Chapter Arts Centre where the bar is still open…
Shadow Boxing is at Llanrumney Boxing Gym until 27 July, but for more information and tickets visit the Chapter Arts Centre website.
Photo credit: AME Photography.