Venue: District 01 (Surry Hills NSW), Jul 21 – 26, 2015
Playwright: Charlotte Josephine
Director: David Mealor
Cast: Jordan Cowan
Much of the success of Charlotte Josephine’s script is due to our inherent sexism. It is because of the way we conceive of girls and women’s lives that the play takes the form that it has, and for the same reasons, that it is received so powerfully. It makes use of our prejudices to create dramatic tension, and one would garner a guess that if its monologue personality is transposed to male, its overall effect would be quite drastically altered. Hence, we are reminded that genders are not thought of as the same, but in spite of perceived differences, it is the notion of equity that feminism wishes to achieve. The work is not a subversive one, in fact it contains elements that are much closer to the work of Walt Disney than to Germaine Greer’s. The Bitch Boxer in question is Chloe, a young athlete who has obstacles to overcome that are not particularly unique, and whose passion lies in a traditionally male arena. It feels like a princess story, and her efforts at beating the boys at their own game, figuratively, locks Chloe’s narrative firmly into a patriarchal structure that it cannot, or possibly will not, escape.
Execution of the production is brilliantly spearheaded by its star, Jordan Cowan, whose level of conviction on stage matches her role’s fierce ambition in the boxing ring. Her performance is vibrant, exciting and captivating, with a relentless and fearless enthusiasm for involving the audience by addressing us directly at every available opportunity. Her warm and welcoming presence is perfectly suited to the show’s most intimate setting, which director David Mealor is astute in establishing, so that Cowan’s best qualities are the event’s overwhelming strong suit. On the other hand, although Cowan’s ability to portray her character’s mellower sides, such as her sensitivity, tenderness and sorrow, is clearly accomplished, we only witness those moments in quick flashes. The direction of the piece is intent on maintaining a fast pace and keeping things high energy, which makes for a very dynamic encounter (aided by Will Spartalis’ remarkable work on sound and music), but it does not depict sufficient emotional depth for us to identify with Chloe’s experiences at a more contemplative and meaningful dimension.
The artistic community often talks about sport and art as a dichotomous pairing, and artists lament the ubiquity of the other in general Australian discourse. It is truly unfortunate that art is rarely held in the same regard as its incongruous opposition. The social and personal benefits that could be derived from a more prevalent culture of art in our societies is unquestionable, yet we refuse to allow it to flourish. Additionally, the gender imbalance in the sporting world is a blindingly obvious problem that persists and seems never to be resolved. In the theatrical arts however, we can boast of participation from women of all tribes and backgrounds, and the need to make heroes of these talents is an urgent one that cannot be understated.