Looking back at Edinburgh Fringe 2014 – three excellent plays – No 2 – Review – Lace Up, New Celts Productions and Trig Point Theatre, The Space on North Bridge, 10th August 2014

Lace UpI’ve often thought that boxing would be a good subject for a meaty drama and so it proves with this engrossing and thought-provoking one act play by Mikey Burnett and Joseph McCann. Stuart is a talented young boxer, trained by his brother Teddy, who gets a shot at World Title glory in Las Vegas. But as his success grows he is confronted by a tragic occurrence that almost puts paid to his career – how does he deal with it?

Lace Up 1It’s a play about ambition and integrity, and the precarious balance that can exist between the two. It’s also an examination of the sport of boxing, and how it almost uniquely combines (if you look at it from extreme points of view) both barbarism and nobility. There’s risk in all sports of course, just as there is in almost everything we do on a daily basis. But the risks involved with boxing are more acute than in most activities. Personally, I’m a great admirer of the sport and view it as a force for good. But the content of the play cannot but unsettle even the most ardent boxing fan. As you follow Stuart through his confidence, his shock, his self-doubt and his self-loathing, you never really know which way he’s going to turn at the end. And the end is a real cliffhanger – I was itching to discover what actually happened next in the story.Lace Up 2 But then I realised that the tale of Stuart’s boxing prowess was actually a different play, and that Lace Up is specifically concerned with the repercussions of accidentally causing another man’s death.

The three-man cast are excellent throughout. Daniel Campbell is very impressive as Stuart and he certainly convinced me he is a natural boxer! Preparing for a bout and in the ring, his face showed the sheer determination of the supreme sportsmen, focussed and fixed on the job. Outside that environment, the contrast with the devastated Stuart coming to terms with what he has done is extremely moving. Patrick Wallace as Teddy successfully conveys both the anxiety of the coach trying to keep his protégé on message and also the irritation of the individual who finds themselves in a teaching role when really they should be doing it themselves. Lace Up 3The two make a terrific partnership, although I must confess, Sassenach as I am, I didn’t understand every word they said with their strong Scottish accents – but certainly enough to follow the plot! The third member of the cast is James Garvock, who captures perfectly the ruthless, hardnosed condescension of the American promoter, compared with whom Stuart and Teddy are mere innocents abroad; and he convincingly conveys the pathetic aggression of Stuart and Teddy’s father. Three young actors definitely to keep an eye on!

The Edinburgh Fringe 3-Nighter – Lace Up

Lace UpContinuing our rather male-dominated day at the Edinburgh Fringe, our next show is the very interesting looking Lace Up from Trig Point Theatre. Here’s its description: “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?” Not quite sure what to expect from the play itself, but I hope it will tackle the issues of ambition versus reality, and whether you have to sacrifice your integrity to get what you want. I’ve often thought the boxing world could be a fruitful source for intense drama – we’ll see if I’m right! It’s on at 18:45 at The Space at North Bridge. Instant reactions on here by 8pm hopefully, which is when the next preview will also be available.

Really gripping story, engrossingly told. Three excellent performances, and if you’ve ever wondered if boxing is a barbaric sport (personally I don’t think that but I know many people who do) this play might change, or confirm, your thoughts one way or another. It ended on a cliffhanger – I really wanted to know what happened next! Great stuff!

PS I’ve written a fuller review of Lace Up here if you’re interested!