Theatre in Wales

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A black comedy that packs a mean punch

Facing Up

Made in Wales , Sherman Theatre, Cardiff , March-04-92
Valleys couple Vicky and Lloyd have to box their way out of a very tight corner in Ieuan Watkins' play Facing Up, showing at Cardiff's Sherman Arena.

It is a black comedy that packs a mean punch. Sexual politics, violence - in and out of the ring - mixed-up morals and dubious psychology all take their turn in the changing room where the drama is set.

Discarded socks and dirty bandages - once wrapped around the fighters' hands - litter the grubby backroom where we meet the flotsam and jetsam of an underworld where boxing means a change from the dole queue and high hopes for non-starters, who still dream.

Vicky has bought her smart leather coat with money she earned stripping.

Lloyd cannot handle this blow to his macho pride, nor the news that best pal Benny has been taking too keen an interest in "his girl". Then there are the mixed-up tactics of manager Eddie and trainer Dick. We circle their individual dilemmas like prize fighters dodging round the ropes.

After a slow start, the play builds up into a sharply-observed piece of drama, superbly acted and with some authentic touches added into the warm-up exercises by Splott's boxing trainer Jackie Chambers.

Particularly engrossing were the exchanges between Laurence Allan's opinionated manager and William Thomas' trainer, sometimes no more than a shrug of the shoulder told that all was not well between them. Talented newcomer Jams Thomas was excellent as Lloyd, a man with a vocabulary as limited as his horizons, Helen Gwyn every bit his match as a woman fighting for some status in a man's world. Steven Speirs also had his moments as the has-been fighter, whose fists seem to be permanently up against the world.

Reviewed by: Penny Simpson

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