Review: Bitch Boxer (Someone Like U Productions)

bitchboxerVenue: District 01 (Surry Hills NSW), Jul 21 – 26, 2015
Playwright: Charlotte Josephine
Director: David Mealor
Cast: Jordan Cowan

Theatre review
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.

5 Questions with Cecelia Peters and Jessica Arthur

Cecelia Peters

Cecelia Peters

Jessica Arthur: What is your ultimate Sugar fantasy (think Homer Simpson in sugar land or Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory).
Cecelia Peters: The Dalai Lama, José Gonzalez and myself in a hotel room – stay with me – We order an abundance of raw vegan treats from room service (yes I’m one of the ‘kale people’. I also don’t want to offend the Dalai Lama and I’m not sure of José’s dietary requirements) and sit on the balcony, play music, slowly eat yummy goodness, and smile and everything is perfect. The end.

What is the most embarrassing thing you did as a teenager? or what is your guilty pleasure?
I feel as though the teen years are about embarrassing yourself on a daily basis and then learning to manage the urge to hide in bed all day. Or maybe that was just me. Does that answer the question?

A typical question, always a goodie – which three people, dead or alive, would you invite to a dinner party and why them in particular?
There are so many inspirational people I would want to invite (mainly to show off how intellectually gifted I am). However, above all I’d want the table banter to be brilliant so I would say, purely for entertainment reasons, Amy Schumer, Dorothy Parker and Ella Fitzgerald.

What is some golden acting advice you’ve been given that you always keep in mind?
Whilst I was at WAAPA I worked with an Irish director called Patrick sutton. He understood my impulses more than I did. He said to me “Cece. You can’t ever switch off on stage: you’re not the kind of actor who can get away with it. You have to keep the ball in the air, don’t let it drop, or it falls flat.” I guess because it wasn’t some passed down line from the hundreds of acting methods that it just stayed with me. So simple. Don’t let the ball drop.

A song lyric that you live by.
“Twerk hard, play hard,” by the Internet.

Jessica Arthur

Jessica Arthur

Cecelia Peters: Favourite city judging by its art scene?
Jessica Arthur: Favourite city art-scene-wise definitely has to be Vienna. I spent my days in the Museumsquartier and nights at the theatre. My favourite place was the Leopold Museum where I fell in love with my favourite artist Egon Schiele. I also couch-surfed with some hippy, bridge dancing, juggling to tango music, dumpster diving folk so Vienna takes the sweet Austrian cake for me.

Who’s your favourite feminist at the moment?
My friend just gave me How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran. I am only a few chapters in but she is a true contemporary feminist and also HILARIOUS. Also I must mention my two buddies Katie Cawthorne and Laura Lethlean who I have co-founded The Anchor theatre company with. We have a group on facebook where we share feminist articles and they will both forever be my favourite feminists!

Where’s your happy place in Sydney ? Do you have one?
My happy place in Sydney is more like a happy moment. That moment is when you’re coming out of the City Circle tunnel and you get that always remarkable view of Circular Quay from the train. As a Melbournian in Sydney it always astounds me and it will never get old. (I must also give a shout out to Satellite cafe in Newtown because they have great coffee and it is such a chill place to meet up with friends).

Do you get ESP with your twin brother?
Sadly no, but we can have full conversations where only a few knowing looks and very little words are required.

Favourite show this year thus far?
Kill The Messenger at Belvoir because of what it did as a piece of theatre. In my mind, theatre should say something and spark thought to the extent that you leave the theatre and think about what you saw for days after. The content of Kill The Messenger did that for me and continues to do so months after viewing it.

Jessica Arthur is directing Cecelia Peters in The Sugar Syndrome by Lucy Prebble.
Dates: 15 – 30 June, 2015
Venue: District 01