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Beautiful Burnout (Plymouth)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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Excuse the pun but Frantic Assembly’s (in cahoots with The National Theatre of Scotland this time out) latest offering is knock-out.

Bryony Lavery’s Beautiful Burnout is a simple, acutely observed but somewhat obvious tale of five youngsters who channel their angst into perfecting the ‘noble art’. But given the Frantic Assembly trademark touch, the otherwise borderline trite becomes lyrical, balletic and dynamic.

The simple raised platform – portraying the gym, Cameron’s home and the ring – is backed by a plasma screen on which video enhances and interacts with the action from time to time and of particular delight is the stone-throwing scene.

A revolving centre allows slo-mo and freeze frame in stark and hypnotic contrast to the exhausting energetic press-ups, star jumps and skipping. The tight direction commands the pace to perfection.

Cameron (Stuart Ryan), wound spring tight and heading for trouble, is saved by ‘God’ Bobby (Keith Fleming)'s punishing workouts and promises of fame and fortune. Mum (Julie Wilson Nimmo) is relieved, anxious and has mixed feelings about the bloody, disciplined sport – most wonderfully and comically expressed with her head in the fridge. But she does indeed regain her baby boy and that matters most to her, whatever the price.

Cameron's "fists of fury" share a gym with showboater Ajay (Taqi Nazeer), who sees a glittering future ahead of him; awkward, fact-fiend Ainsley (Ali Craig) who lusts after tough-nut Dina (Margarate Ann Bain), punching her way out of an abusive past and frustrated by the male/female politics of boxing, and arch rival Neil (Matthew Trevannion).

Pounding visceral techno by Underworld, astute choreography by directors Scott Graham and Steve Hoggett and punishing work-outs leave the mesmerised audience breathless and almost smelling the sweat.

An excellent, fast and furious 90 minutes.


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