Review: Gypsy Queen, VAULT Festival

“We’re all friends of Dorothy but you’re the cowardly lion”

Rob Ward has form when it comes to examining how homophobia is entrenched in the world of sport. His one-man show Away From Home looked at whether the Premiership might ever be ready for an out gay footballer with intelligence and integrity. But it is to the boxing ring that Ward now turns his attention with his play Gypsy Queen, already an award-nominated success after touring the UK and playing Edinburgh last year.

Dane ‘The Pain’ Sansom is the son of a boxing legend and a pretty nifty boxer himself, ‘Gorgeous’ George O’Connell is a bare-knuckle champion from the traveller community making his first steps into the world of professional boxing. And when George rocks up at the gym owned by Dane’s dad, sparks soon fly as their respective cockiness rubs up against each other, and sure enough, it isn’t too long before you can remove the -iness from that last bit as they get to know each other better in the shower.

For they’re both young gay lads. Life is rarely that simple though, especially in professional sport, particularly in professional sport. Dane is relatively comfortable in his sexuality but defers to his dad’s wish to keep it hidden, George is newly embracing the awakening of his desire but with fiercely traditional ideas about family riven through his community, it’s no surprise that there’s a tragic swerve to events, its inevitability like a weight trying its best to stop these two young men from fulfilling their destiny.

Adam Zane’s production keeps a lightness of touch about it though, its feet constantly dancing across the canvas as each performer takes on a variety of supporting roles to flesh out the world around George and Dane, a world that seems like it just can’t let them be. And Ward and co-star John Askew display immense versatility in presenting us with a tender, deeply moving connection between these two young boxers, both from single parent households, as well as the vibrant others in their life. Brutal and funny, sexy and thought-provoking – it’s a good’un.

Running time: 70 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 4th February

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