Meet ‘Gorgeous’ George O’Connell (Rob Ward) and Dane ‘The Pain’ Samson (John Askew), two hard as nails boxers both raised by their traditionalist fathers to defend themselves and their names. When George sets his sights on professional boxing, leaving his traveller life of 'scrapping' behind, his encounter with training partner Dane changes more than just his career path.
A friendship between two men born to fight will see them having to let their guard down
This short play packs a punch and showcases Ward’s talents as both a magnificent actor and award-winning playwright. Throughout the play he invites us to learn about George and Dane’s personal relationships that have shaped the way they define and express themselves, through subplots that require Ward and Askew to multi-role an array of well-crafted characters. The pair maintain a strong chemistry throughout these moments, bringing new light and comedy to an otherwise hard-hitting piece through their comic timing and expression - Askew won laughter for his rather surprising reveal as one of the O’Connell clan.
Zane’s direction is a fusion of theatrical styles, so there’s sure to be something for everyone. This ranges from well-received audience interaction, to touchingly intimate moments and physical theatre, although some moments proved slicker than others (perhaps from a minor staging flaw). Nonetheless, both actors have an innate ability to deliver the language with integrity. Ward, in particular, shows clear ownership over his own words and poetry, helping the piece into its flow, whilst driving attention to the more intellectual and self-aware side of George contrasting with his naivety.
There really is no hiding place for these two as they are onstage throughout, with only a minimalistic, yet symbolic, changing room bench behind them, credit to Meriel Pym. Gypsy Queen acts as a constant reminder to the audience of the stereotypical expectations and toxic masculinity casting a shadow over our lives, particularly in male dominated sport, and this is the most crucial and powerful theme of the play, whilst paying homage to The Hope Theatre company’s mission to represent the LGBT+ community onstage. Director and founder of The Hope Theatre Company, Adam Zane, cleverly manipulates this set to achieve seamless scene transitions, as the actors dodge and weave around stage.
The ending felt almost understated after the previous conflicts however, it was satisfying to have the subplots concluded. Ultimately, this is a confident Fringe performance, that will allow you to leave feeling fulfilled after an hour ranging from heart-warming laughter to a bitter sense of betrayal. There is a constant desire to champion the protagonists, as they struggle to navigate their lives and find happiness, leaving the lingering question - when will diversity be celebrated in all walks of life?