Bitch Boxer, Underbelly

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Originally written for IdeasTap.

Every fighter has a reason.

That’s the thinking behind this new show written and performed by Charlotte Josephine, taking a particularly timely dive into the world of female boxing. Chloe has wanted to fight ever since a family betrayal fractured her world, but in the lead up to the London 2012 Olympics – the first Games in which women can compete in boxing – two events once again shift the ground beneath her, tripping her footwork.

With a rough sort of poetry, pounded out to the rhythm of punches, Josephine offers us a glimpse into Chloe’s chalk-outlined world. This is more about the individual at its heart than the sport in which she competes, but boxing forms a constant background drumbeat and a language through which to understand life. For Chloe, romance is a winding “sucker-punch of love”, an emotion, like grief, that she can only understand in terms of a knockout blow. Emotion, in this male-dominated world, feels like a weakness.

Beneath the fighting mentality that permeates Chloe’s character, however, there is something surprisingly tender and charming about this piece. Much of that charm radiates from Josephine herself, who somehow makes an activity inherently reliant on two parties – red corner and blue corner – work as a solo show. Hopping from toe to toe and pacing restlessly around the space, she rarely loses the coiled physicality of the boxer, but she also melts into moments of sudden, startling softness; reading a note from boyfriend Jamie, or smiling at a memory.

The other surprise of the show is its humour. From miming deadpan to Eminem, to a gag about Tesco that will never let you read the slogan “every little helps” in quite the same way again, the piece packs as many laughs as it does punches. Ultimately Bitch Boxer is, like the odd affection inspired by real boxing champion Nicola Adams, a reminder of the very human side of a sport often characterised by aggression. For all that the fighting thrills, it is the moment when a closed fist unfurls into an open hand that is the most compelling.

Photo: Jassy Earl

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