Laurie Atkinson - Dom Post
Techno music rattles your eardrums and bright lights dazzle your eyes as you enter the TSB Arena which has been arranged so that the audience is seated on three sides of a boxing ring without ropes. On the back wall artfully arranged television screens show us fractured shots of close-up punches, starry skies, domestic scenes, and the glitz and glamour of the boxing world.
The adrenalin-fuelled tension is released when the five young aspiring boxers, or as their dictatorial trainer calls them “bloody silly testosteroned teenagers,” start their workouts, which are choreographed and performed, as are the bout’s, with skill, elegance and speed.
These workouts and the stylised boxing fights (at times in slow-motion, at times freeze-framed and performed on a revolving ring) are the highlight so the show, which ranges from brief, almost documentary-like scenes to human dramas about the reasons for being a boxer and the rigorous discipline it imposes on personal lives.
The five aspirants – four men and a feisty young woman – are guided, bullied, and disciplined into amateur boxers with the possibility of turning professional, if “God” (the trainer) thinks they are good enough.
The storylines are clichéd: the cocksure boxer who knows better than his trainer, the youngster dreaming of fame and fortune, and the young woman seeking revenge. The most interesting character is a long-suffering mother, played with a fine ironic humour by Blythe Duff, who washes her son’s sweaty clothing and stares into her sanctuary (her refrigerator) realising that if he turns professional the people with the money will demand something in return: blood.
American playwright David Belasco once said “boxing is showbusiness with blood”. While there is no blood in Beautiful Burnout there is showbusiness aplenty: slick plotting and characterisation, a “surprise” ending. What lifts it above the ordinary are the brilliant “dance” routines.