Bitch Boxer
  • By Kat Pope
  • |
  • 27th May 2013
  • |
  • ★★★★★

Chloé is locked out in Leytonstone in only her jimjams. Finding a neighbour in, she tackles the fences between their garden and her own. No problem. Her upper body strength is excellent, what with her being a boxer'n'all. It's when she has to face the dog that it all goes a bit tits up.

Bitch Boxer is a terrific underdog tale of determination, pluck, and swishing ponytails, but in the end it's most powerfully about grief.

The opening scene sets the pace nicely for this one woman play, as we meet Chloé (Charlotte Josephine) a 19 year old street-savvy girl with a dream: to win gold at the London Olympics. After all, it's practically on her doorstep. It must be a sign, mustn't it? And it's the first year that they've allowed women to box too. It's all looking peachy for this Leytonstone babe: Even her love life with the delightful Jamie, a try-hard boyfriend she met in a nightclub ominously called Destiny, is going well.

But, as we all know, when life is turning out this peachy (especially on the stage – or in EastEnders), something is bound to come along and deal a low blow, and Chloé gets the lowest blow of all. Her dad dies suddenly and her world is turned upside down – not that she lets it show on the outside. She's back in the gym the day after and hides her tears at the funeral even though her mates are "waiting around for her to crumble." Showing the working class equivalent of the stiff upper lip – bravado – inside, she's just a little girl who wants her dad.

The set is sparse. At the very beginning of the piece, Chloé sprinkles a square of sand around the stage, delineating the ring, but also drawing us into the conceit that life is a stage, and that stage is more often than not like a boxing ring, full of combat and struggle and winners and losers.

The lighting is minimal, with some scenes being played out in semi-darkness. The music too is barely there, except for the use of Eminem's Lose Yourself, which Chloé mimes and dances along to – 'You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, This opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo.' It's her song.

Josephine, with her lopsided smile to match her lopsided hair, plays the feisty Chloé as a ball of energy and determination. Pumped-up and sweat-slicked, she seems invincible, all London patois and cockiness. Effortlessly switching from the 'so he said, so i said, so he said, so i said' gabble of the modern teenager to a tender poetic monologue, and from Chloé herself to her gum-chewing trainer Len, here is an actress who can electrify, startle, and satisfy all at the same time.

Her face is a picture of adolescent angst - one minute cocky, the next shy; one minute knowing, the next baffled; one minute ecstatic, next in the pit of misery - but it's the physicality of her performance that's even more overwhelming. Josephine bounces around the stage, only to suddenly come to a dead halt, noisily catching her breath, simply looking the audience in the eye, waiting for us to catch our breath too.

Bitch Boxer is a terrific underdog tale of determination, pluck, and swishing ponytails, but in the end it's most powerfully about grief. After her big boxing bout, Chloé ends a beautiful verse monologue with the simple and simply heartbreaking - "I wish dad was here." But it's her ability to, albeit reluctantly, express that grief that makes you know that she's probably going to be OK in the end.

Reviews by Kat Pope

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
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Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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The Blurb

As one young prospect trains for the fight of her life, she is left winded by two life-changing events. In a man’s world, can a fighter let her guard down for love and prove she is worth the title? Snuff Box invites you ringside for an adrenaline-fuelled, no-holes-barred one-woman show unafraid to document the blood, the sweat...and all the tears.

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