Until You Hear That Bell - Theatre ☆☆☆☆4
Showing from - Sunday, March 13, 2016 through till Saturday, March 19, 2016
St Paul's Boxing Club - Kingston-upon-Hull
Jackie Foottit | Sunday, March 13, 2016
“A minute is a long time when your mouth is filled with hot, freshly-boiled plastic.”
So said young Sean, describing his first fitting for his very first gum-shield – just one of the memorable events in his young life that kept us entertained when Until You Hear That Bell came to St Paul’s Boxing Club, in Hull, as part of the Heads Up Festival in the city.
And the setting of St Paul’s Boxing Club was an inspired choice – it was at this atmospheric gym another young hopeful, Luke Campbell, We marvelled with him when the German girl he had a crush on held his chin while she tended his bloody nose after yet another sparring nightmarelearned the skills that led him to winning a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics.
Okay, so it wasn’t Madison Square Gardens, but by the excited chatter coming from the audience ringside, leading up to Round 1 of Until You Hear That Bell, you would have thought Muhammad Ali himself was about to jump into the ring.
Instead of Ali, young actor Sean Mahoney took centre stage in front of the gym’s boxing ring. What he lacked in props he made up for by drawing us into his memories with his actions – we could see that small boy sitting in his dad’s car on his way to joining his first boxing club. We were with him in the doctor’s surgery having his stress-related eczema discussed. We felt his pain when he faced bigger and better sparring partners. We sweated with him during his first proper bout. We felt for him when he only got Ds in his school exams. We marvelled with him when the German girl he had a crush on held his chin while she tended his bloody nose after yet another sparring nightmare.
Mahoney, a spoken word artist and member of the Roundhouse Poetry Collective, hailing from North London, helped us forget our cold surroundings by entertaining us for more than an hour, non-stop, in timed boxing rounds.
Starting off as a young boy, horrified by the sights and sounds he witnessed inside a boxing club, he talked us through everything, from his parent’s marriage breakdown, his exam fails, health issues and regular battering at the hands of brutish sparring partners, cleverly showing us a lad growing in confidence over a span of 10 years, until he felt he could have taken on any one of those bruisers who had bloodied his nose so many times over the years.
Dressed in a dark tracksuit, and later white Islington Boys Club vest, white shorts and yellow boxing gloves, he did press-ups, sang, skipped like a pro (the faster he skipped, the faster he talked) - ducking and weaving, jabbing like a good ‘un, all the while non-stop talking. Fair enough, he didn’t float like a butterfly or sting like a bee, but boy could he multitask.
For a long time, and to please his dad, boxing is the love of young Sean’s life, until an interest in drama takes over. As a young adult, he reaches a crossroads – torn between boxing and drama. Events at the very end give us a good idea of where his heart lay.
For 70 minutes or so, this young man, while suffering from a cold, held the stage and, more importantly, held our attention. A champ in anyone’s book.
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