Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: Cornermen, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Sally Stott
Boxing is a cyclical sport; new blood always comes along and replaces the old – or so we’re told at the beginning of this striking new play, from exciting new writer, Oliver Forsyth.
There have been a lot of shows about boxers at the Fringe in recent years but this one focuses on the “cornermen”, ex-fighters-turned-trainers, vicariously living their dreams – ones they previously failed to achieve – through the success of their young protégés.
Mickey, Drew and Joey are in search of a new talent, one who isn’t a “punch drunk pensioner” or “teenager in need of toilet training”. They end up with Sid. He’s not the best boxer in town, but someone who could perhaps make a good “journeyman” – a figure who carries out fights expecting to lose, purely to make money.
The bleak tragedy of four simple guys, trapped by their lack of alternative job prospects, is made painfully funny by Forsyth’s sparkling writing, which finds comedy in the unlikeliest of places – the violence and camaraderie the boxing world.
James Barbour, Jesse Rutherford, Andrew Livingstone, along with Forsyth, give heart-racing performances, relishing their characters’ lines, while Joe Lichtenstein’s energetic direction builds to some bracing fights in the offstage ring. “Go get that eye. Keep poking at it,” Mickey tells the uncharismatic Sid, who – through a combination of luck, talent and dirty tricks – finds himself a champion, awkwardly promoting shampoo and meeting Hollywood celebrities on the couches of TV chat shows.
Forsyth, who is also an amateur boxer, brings new insights to a familiar genre – whether it’s through the men’s delight in getting matching tracksuits, or their shuffling dance moves in a club. From the first line, where the story’s heading has a Shakespearian sense of inevitability, but it’s thrilling to watch it unfold.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 31 August, 2:45pm / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 15 August 2015
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