Edinburgh Fringe 2017
Asking if we would be a different person if we lived in a different time, Tramp’s new play explores themes of sexism and bullying in two disparate worlds – a 1980s boxing club and a present-day tech start-up.
Asking if we would be a different person if we lived in a different time, Tramp’s new play explores themes of sexism and bullying in two disparate worlds – a 1980s boxing club and a present-day tech start-up (the eponymous Sweet Science) now based in the same Shoreditch building.
It is an intriguing premise, and director Jack Silver uses ambitious devices to segue between scenes and the two worlds. This is the most compelling and successful element of the play.
It looks great, the transitions are slick and finely timed, and the cast work extremely well as an ensemble, most effectively when they morph into their other worlds rather than in the busyness of coming off and on stage.
There are nice set pieces of choreography, including a repeating scene to show the growth of the start up as more and more new people come on board (and on stage); some high octane group training that is almost a dance; the inevitable fight scene. There is, however, a bewildering amount of smoke in both worlds…
Lizzie Stanton gives an impressive physical performance as the wannabe boxer, channeling her anger and frustration, and growing in proficiency and confidence, under the tutelage of Raymond Bethley, convincing as the trainer, who tells her “When you are in your cage, no one can hurt you.”
Inevitably some of the actors are more believable (or simply better cast) in one of the worlds than the other. It is difficult to show testosterone-fuelled brawn one moment and brainy geek the next; Martin Bell as boxer Idris manages this particularly well.
The script is written by a team of four (Tim Thomson, Sally Collett, Kate Goodfellow and Jack Silver) after a semi-devised process. The 1980s story is the stronger half – the narrative is more clearly articulated; the themes more apparent, perhaps partly because the barriers faced by Ruby are more explicit in that world.
There is a lovely moment early on when the dialogue echoes across the two eras. More could be made of this device.
The two halves would benefit from stronger narrative splicing and the cast might be helped by a deepening of the the dialogue and a slightly lighter handling of some of the themes. Annette Flynn in particular as Ada (the manager of the start up) has a lot of storyline to tell, perhaps at the expense of a better understanding of what drives her.
Overall, the performances are solid and this strong and experienced cast – which also includes Charlie Quirke, Talya Harris, Sofia Greenacre and Leon Rock – support each other beautifully.
With bags of innovation and energy, this piece packs an entertaining punch.