Venue: Belvoir St Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Jan 6 – 22, 2017
Playwright: Future D. Fidel
Director: Todd MacDonald
Cast: Margi Brown-Ash, Thuso Lekwape, Gideon Mzembe, Pacharo Mzembe, Zindzi Okenyo, Kenneth Ransom
Image by Brett Boardman
We meet Isa as he tries to make a new life in Australia. After experiencing years of trauma in Congo, he now focuses aggression onto the fighting ring, and as he boxes his way through flashbacks of unimaginably tough times, we witness his tragic biography unfold onstage.
Prize Fighter involves a young man making sense of the world, in order that healing and a brighter future become possible. It is also about a migrant reaching out to his adopted land, asking for understanding and acceptance. Future D. Fidel’s writing is concise and simple. The play knows what it wishes to say and says it clearly, but its inability to delve deeper into our protagonist’s psychological and emotional complexities, results in a story that has a tendency to feel generic.
Direction by Todd MacDonald gives the show exciting vigour, with an athletic cast providing a beautiful sense of visual animation. Lighting design by David Walters is creative, surprising and very polished, but the production often feels distant, or perhaps elusive. Its dim dreamlike quality seems to prevent us from connecting firmly with the characters, and we struggle to connect with an intensity that would befit Isa’s plight.
We hear about humanitarian crises, on the news every day. Reports are made by people in positions of privilege, for the consumption of people with privilege. These stories affect us all, but the stakes are infinitely higher for those seeking refuge, yet their voices are rarely heard in our cacophonous landscape of upper-class broadcast culture. Prize Fighter is a rare opportunity for a first-person account, an important contribution to unceasing discussions on who are allowed to occupy this land. If the world is one, our boundaries can only be false, but humans have always been at war, and even though utopia is only imagined, life means little if we are unable to conceive of something better.