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Chapel Street/Bitch Boxer (Plymouth)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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Theatre Royal, Plymouth

Not for the easily-offended but a great double helping of young talent is served up in the touring Chapel Street/Bitch Boxer.

Scrawl and Snuffbox Theatre in collaboration with Richard Jordan Productions combine two award-winning short plays illustrating the trials and tribulations of today's 'yoof'.

Chapel Street
(c) Alex Brenner
First up is Luke Barnes' first play Chapel Street, an on-point, breathless rollercoaster of interwoven thoughts, comments and action by the excellent duo Josh Mayes-Cooper and Nicola Coughlan.

Kirsty is 17, self-conscious but ambitious and knows her way out of Salford is through university – much to the chagrin of her careers officer. But a reluctant night out celebrating her friend's birthday brings unexpected consequences.

A good time in both cases means a load of alcohol and sexual tension as the engaging duo tell their stories (utilising all possible expletives) to and after their ill-fated meeting.

Coughlan is superb in detail: tugging at her tight, short dress; weighing up the sexiness of an older man; distaining her lardy ex and somewhat awkwardly on the pull while Joe is a typical recession-hit youth, on the dole, aimless and up for anything going to break the boredom. Mayes-Cooper plays him to a tee, desperate to belong, desperate to score and desperate to find his place.

In a heady mix of cross-dressing pirates, whipped cream body shots and revered Echo Falls, this a beautifully observed piece tightly directed by Bryony Shanahan.

Shanahan also directs Charlotte Josephine's stunning one-woman show.

Bitch Boxer tells the tale of gawky Chloe dealing with two life-changing experiences just as she is heading into the ring for her most important fight to date.

Josephine is tremendous – believable, exquisitely vulnerable and bolshy, and utterly charismatic holding the rapt attention of the diverse audience throughout the 50-minute piece.

Heartbreakingly real, Josephine paces the monologue punctuated with deft footwork and feints (and who will forget the Eminem strut?) lifting the mood with comic impressions or tales just when the poignancy threatens to oppress – absolutely superb. I could have had a quick g+t and watched it all over again

– Karen Bussell


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