Lace Up

Lace Up presents the rise of one man, Stuart, from a childhood of neglect to dominance in the boxing ring, with the help of his brother (trainer and lifelong advocate Teddy) and his promoter (Omaha-bred Jack, whose role it is to help Stuart ‘break’ America and gain HBO sponsorship). It's ten minutes before Stuart speaks and in this time his status as champion is built up. Going for grit, the play relies on clichéd characters and plot, lacking much that is personal and distinctive.

Exposition is delivered by monologue, in which we discover the motivation for Stuart’s success.

Exposition is delivered by monologue, in which we discover the motivation for Stuart’s success. It is rooted, as you might guess, in his childhood and his no-love-lost relationship with his violent, alcoholic father. We also discover Teddy’s motivation to encourage his brother, following his own injury and substandard skill as a boxer, and their codependency from an early age. Tragedy in the ring leaves Stuart thinking about his relationship with his father, his own motivation, forgiveness and loyalty.

Stuart, played by Daniel Campbell, is a well-realised angry young man. The slick cynical boxing pundits are enjoyably represented, offering a glimpse of something other than conventional kitchen sink. James Garvock as Jack was pleasingly soulless and amoral, although his backstory was presented a little late in the play and seemed out of place. There are laughs at misunderstandings resulting from the differences between the brothers' thick Scottish dialect and the slick American language of sponsorship and punditry; at one point one of the characters suggests turning on the subtitle button. However, there is an over-reliance on this method as comedy relief, which becomes tedious.

The stage, set up as a boxing ring, is fairly simple and instils the idea that it is not only Stuart's career that is a fight, but his whole life. Actors remain onstage when not in scenes, changing characters simply by putting on a different jacket; they manage these transitions effectively. The characters are well-acted but the script plods along inevitably; I just couldn't bring myself to care about the outcome, perhaps because the pre-packaged motivations meant that nothing went beyond a standard archetype. The dialogue could have been recycled from almost anywhere (the bout “could be what defines him as a boxer, but... it could be what defines him as a man”) and this familiarity fostered not affection but rather the suspicion that this has all been done better before. As an exploration of masculinity or as a look at the boxing world, Lace Up’ s reheated clichés and knock-out-punch subtlety will leave audiences wanting something with more depth.

Reviews by Alice Quine

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The Blurb

Lace Up, written by up and coming playwrights Mikey Burnett and Joseph McCann, is a captivating tale about a young boxer from Edinburgh who has the world at his feet. Trained by his brother and put under immense pressure by his promoter, young Stuart Macmillan punches his way to a world title shot. But a shocking event in the ring casts doubt on whether Stuart is as determined as he seems. As pressures mount and the biggest fight of his life looms, Stuart has one decision to make - what price would you pay to achieve your dream?