To celebrate their tenth year at the Fringe Japanese comedy duo Gamarjobat have reprised their debut show Gamarjobat: Boxer. The show is part homage and part pastiche of Rocky performed completely in mime. What emerges is a poignant, visually dazzling and very funny story that manages to transcend its clichéd tropes through sheer exuberance. The pair’s constant energy and inventiveness is a marvel to behold.
The combination of pathos and pratfalling can be exquisite.
The duo are electric onstage. The set opens with a blistering array of clowning and magic all delivered with an anarcho-punk silliness that would give The Young Ones a run for their money. The general technique is to perform a magic trick and then ‘accidentally’ reveal the method behind it. This kind of deconstructionist clowning allows the duo to beautifully toe the line between magic and comedy.
After this warm-up the story proper begins. It’s the classic boxing story. A great boxer has hung up his gloves having been knocked from the top spot. He spends his afternoons in bars, drinking his life away, barely able to afford the next whiskey. One day he meets a girl. They fall in love. They need money for the wedding. Guess who has to step back into the ring and prove he still has what it takes? The formulaic nature of the story actually allows for the broadest possible scope for physicality and comedy. For instance, the story begins with a stunning slow motion boxing fight where one man motions both the hitting and the being-hit. There is low-level lighting and all we hear is ba-dum ba-dum on the soundtrack. It seems to go on forever like the opening of Raging Bull. The effect is utterly hypnotic.
The combination of pathos and pratfalling can be exquisite. One scene sees our hero throw his beloved to the floor because she is barring the way to the boxing ring. There’s a sharp intake of breath in the audience. He regrets it instantly. He knows he’s a monster for he’s hurt the only thing that matters to him. And then trying to make a dignified exit he fumbles embarrassingly with the doorknob because he’s still wearing his boxing gloves. It’s a very ordinary moment of human silliness present in even the most dramatic of situations.
Problems do arise with certain sections beginning to drag. Because the story lacks novelty, as soon as it loses any energy audience attention instantly begins to flag. Certain scenes just slightly overstay their welcome. But these are very much exceptions to a show that is for the most part a rollicking ride.
A show for all ages and all languages; this is universal comedy of an extremely high order.