DramaNorth WestReview

Gypsy Queen – Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

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Tough and Tender

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Writer: Rob Ward

Director: Adam Zane

Reviewer:  Katherine Kirwin

Two fighters command the stage in separate spotlights and rush forth a spoken word style monologue; one is ‘Gorgeous George’ a scrappy Northern Catholic bare-knuckle fighter and the other is Dean ‘The Pain’ Clayton who is part of a boxing dynasty with greatness lying before him.

When there are doubts about Dean’s killer instinct in the ring, his father and trainer introduces the scrappy George to the gym to serve as a ‘rocket up his arse’. However, their initial rivalry quickly leads to a rather sweet and tender love story revolving around the push-and-pull forces of acceptance and community, love and lust, identity and family, religion and bigotry.

Rob Ward as George and Ryan Clayton as Dean play a multitude of characters between them with skill. Using bold characterisation, mingled with some amusing yet knowing stereotypes, and a handful of props and costumes, they transform into George’s domineering Irish Catholic mother, Dean’s brusque and masculine father, and also potential love interests for the protagonists. The caricature nature of the majority of the other characters heightens the, mostly downplayed, raw emotion and connection portrayed between Dean and George.

The play has some faults; clunky moments of dialogue, sometimes shoehorned exposition, and the flow from spoken word poetry into dramatic dialogue isn’t quite there. It doesn’t shine too strong a light on homophobia in sport, but allows the audience’s focus on this couple to act as a conduit for the larger conversation. Ultimately, this is a show with heart and humour, performed with both toughness and tenderness.

Reviewed on 25th September 2017 | Image: Contributed


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The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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