Brighton Fringe 2013
Tour de force high-octane one woman show that hits you meaningfully about the head and the solar plexus .
Charlotte Josephine is engaging, convincing and deeply sympathetic as a woman boxer, Chloe, trying to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. Her performance is strenuous and tight – and when you add the fact that she wrote the play you come away doubly impressed. This isn’t just a well-played virtuoso piece of theatre – it has subtlety and depth in both the acting and the writing. It has a good pace too – starting with the manic tale of her getting up late for training at the gym, locking herself out, frantically gaining entry again though knocking on doors and climbing over walls – this in itself is a compelling and hilarious tale that builds an immediate rapport with the character.
It’s a rich piece, so taking bits out and describing them won’t do justice to it. As a one woman show she is on stage all the time, with plenty of physical activity as she goes through her training moves – this is someone sweating on stage for real, you can feel and see the effort that is going in, and the strength of the performance is such that it’s Chloe’s effort you are see rather than the actress’s. Physically it’s a demanding performance, but Josephine doesn’t miss a beat – and she can skip at lightning speed! I came out of the show thinking that she must have trained in boxing club and the programme confirmed this.
Her relationships with her dad and her boyfriend, and their ups and downs are beautifully laid out in narrative images that sink in – you know that her relationship with her dad is close, but it is brought up into intense emotional focus when she describes how her boyfriend’s hands are not like her dad’s, they’re knobbly, not the right shape, her hand doesn’t fit into her boyfriend’s like they did in her dad’s. It’s a strong tactile image of a different bond – and Chloe’s path out of this into a self separate from her dad is part of the character’s growth.
It is a play about being a woman boxer, but it’s also a play about growing up with a focus, and learning there are other things that have to develop alongside your main obsession. In this well shaped piece you learn her back-story as the performance progresses, but it all fits in well, nothing seems forced. And it has both structure and a sustained energy that keeps you deeply involved in the narrative, there’s never a moment when you drift off – the whole performance has a grip and immediacy in it, coming from both the performance and the writing.
The last section of the play is such a well handled mix of physical and narrative theatre – the boxing ring suggested, but live and present in the audience’s imagination, the conclusion suggested rather than spelt out, and all the more powerful for that. It summed up the production for me – a fiercely physical, intelligent, emotional journey with great insight and feeling.