FRINGE REVIEW – Beautiful Burnout (Pleasance)


10 – 29 August (not 16 or 23)
1930-2100, Pleasance Courtyard

There are moments during Frantic Assembly’s stunning and visceral Beautiful Burnout where you feel you have just gone three minutes with a heavyweight champion.

A co-production with the National Theatre of Scotland, the play throws the audience into the world of amateur boxing, focusing on young Cameron Burns as he enrols at Bobby Burgess’ gym and tries to punch his way to the top.

His fellow boxers and mother also play their parts, accompanying his journey and sharing his progress blow-by-blow. Standouts in the cast include Taqi Nazeer, who portrays the cocky showboater Ajay Chopra with lupine grace and bravado. Vicki Manderson is also excellent as female boxer Dina Massie, a ball of angry energy determined to prove herself equal to the men.

Ryan Fletcher’s performance as Burns is gripping, perfectly evoking his wide-eyed hunger for victory. And Ewan Stewart, as the proud and egotistical trainer Bobby Burgess, commands the stage whenever he appears, balancing his character’s dictatorial tutelage with a compassion that is evident from his eyes and facial expressions.

Staged superbly, Beautiful Burnout is performed on a raised platform, which doubles as a stage and a boxing ring on which the intense physical drama plays out. Television screens behind the stage are used to display video sequences, often accompanied by a powerful soundtrack featuring the music of Underworld.

Burning brightest of all are the physical sequences. Using a mixture of stylised dance and genuine boxing moves, the choreography is quite unique. As the boxers train in unison, or two fighters spar in slow-motion on the revolving central stage, this element of the production is powerful and spellbinding.

When all these elements gel together, Beautiful Burnout is mesmerising: the fluid choreography, flickering recorded images and pumping music creating a hyperreality which enthrals.

Most theatre-going audiences will be unfamiliar with the world portrayed by Beautiful Burnout, and it is the cast and company’s credit that after 90 minutes of outstanding and hard-hitting Scottish theatre, we feel as though we have been given a glimpse into its starry highs of possibility and its bone-crunching lows of inevitable defeat.

Ticket information is available on the Pleasance website.

Review by Keith D

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