The world of boxing and the drive of the people involved it to fight, are just some of the themes that arise in Bryony Lavery’s Beautiful Burnout. A co-production between NTS and Frantic Assembly, this play is directed by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett, and presents a thought provoking ringside breakdown of the sport of boxing.
Performed using dance, movement and speech, Beautiful Burnout follows naturally gifted teenage boxer, Cameron Burns (Ryan Fletcher), as he develops his interest in boxing under the guidance of Coach Bobby Burgess (Ewan Stewart). But his hobby soon becomes a new and obsessive passion that eventually takes him into the lucrative world of professional boxing, with disastrous consequences.
By fusing the twin disciplines of dance and theatre, Beautiful Burnout offers a rare peek into the nature of professional boxing, and attempts to present an informed and unbiased analysis of the sport. Visually spectacular with an exhilarating soundtrack, this is a fast-paced and invigorating piece that questions many universally held views on the topic. Under Graham and Hoggett’s direction and choreography the cast are outstanding, and exude strong focus which when combined with Laura Hopkins’ boxing ring set, and lighting and sound from Andy Purves and Carolyn Downing, only adds to the play’s intense authenticity. Although rich in physicality and text, the play is essentially a somewhat familiar story of the culture and very real dangers that surround modern boxing. While Lavery’s script showcases the more poetic words of the Scottish tongue, it fails to destroy the clichés that surround women in boxing, by including two stereotypical female characters, who were confined to the roles of a mother and an exploited sex object respectively. While Beautiful Burnout asks more questions about the reasoning behind boxing than it provides answers, it’s a timely and thoughtful portrayal of a sport that will be viewed as controversial for some time to come.