Elissa Blake - Sydney Morning Herald
The Sydney Festival includes productions that pack a serious punch.
"This play is sweaty, noisy, smelly and very, very Scottish,'' actor Blythe Duff says of the eagerly awaited Beautiful Burnout. A co-production between British company Frantic Assembly and the National Theatre of Scotland, it opens at the Sydney Festival on Wednesday.
Duff is one of two women in this pummelling physical drama about amateur boxers training to be champions in the often-ugly, sometimes-inspiring world of the boxing gym. The actors trained intensively for three months in the lead-up to the show's opening in Glasgow last year, before taking it to London, New York and now Sydney. They arrive in peak condition.
''Their fitness regime and fitness level is extraordinary,'' says Duff, best known here as Detective Sergeant Jackie Reid on the long-running Scottish crime series Taggart.
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''One of the actors, Vicki Manderson, is also an extraordinary dancer. She has an amazing look and she's a real force in the piece. It's nice to have a female involved in the boxing, she can really hold her own.''
Duff plays Carlotta, mother to one of the boxers, who guides the audience through the story as the fighters move from enthusiastic amateurs to the cutthroat professional world. At one point, she stands in the middle of the ring as the actors throw punches around her, moving to ear-splitting music by British dance act Underworld.
''The whole show is almost a dance piece. It's beautifully choreographed and really thrilling.
''The actors rarely land a punch on each other but they come off pouring in sweat. I don't have to work so hard, I'm just worried about whether I can get my slippers on!'' she says with a laugh.
Sydney audiences will be seated around a raised boxing ring with a bank of video screens showing close-ups of the action. Duff says Australians will easily get the Scottish humour and men and women alike will enjoy the boxing.
''It's high adrenalin and great for young audiences,'' she says. ''But parents will like it, too. As a mother, I understand the need to get your kids engaged in an activity.''