You wouldn’t expect anything less than brilliance from the team behind 2006’s global hit Black Watch, which went on from its Fringe debut to win awards and wow audiences across the world. Thankfully the National Theatre of Scotland and Frantic Assembly, along with writer Bryony Lavery and directors Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett, have created what is sure to be another Scottish success story with their latest piece, Beautiful Burnout.
The play is set in a boxing gym and follows the fortunes of likely lad Cameron Burns (Ryan Fletcher) and his obsessed mates/rivals Ajay Chopra (Taqi Nazeer), Neil Neill (Eddie Kay), Ainslie Binnie (Henry Pettigrew) and lone female Dina Massie (Vicki Manderson) as they train under the watchful eye of their ‘god’ Bobby Burgess (Ewan Stewart). The young hopefuls train hard, each longing to escape their ascribed place in society and become world champions, with the money and fame that goes along with that glory.
Interestingly, the heart of the play is not one of the boxers, and nor is it their trainer. The true soul of the play is a seemingly peripheral character, Cameron’s mother Carlotta (Lorraine M McIntosh). Watching her boy become a boxer with a mixture of fear and pride, Carlotta persuades herself that Cameron will be safe, that boxing isn’t as frightening as she thinks. She cheers him on from the sidelines, and although she doesn’t really interact with any of the other characters, she allows the audience in to see the boxing world from a fresh perspective outwith that of the tiny gym.
The talented young cast spent months in boxing training, some from before they even knew they had the part, and their genuine comfort with the sport shows on the stage. Every parry and jab looks powerful and yet controlled, and these movements lead to some of the most exciting, and occasionally beautiful, choreography in the show.
With a pounding soundtrack thanks to dance legends Underworld and an air of honesty that puts lesser works to shame, Beautiful Burnout is a true must-see this Festival.
Pleasance Courtyard, 4-29 Aug (not 9, 16, 23), 7.30pm