From 20 to 22 September, the Caccia Studio was home to the WING house play Beautiful Burnout, a thrilling and heart-wrenching piece about Cameron Burns’ struggles on his journey towards professional boxing.
Set in a dazzling ring and directed by Ms Hale, the audience were certainly in for a treat. We have seen the Caccia Studio in many configurations and sets in our time – notably Ms Hale’s last production, Bound, saw the stage in traverse. But none have matched the ambition and creativity of Beautiful Burnout, transforming the studio into a boxing arena, the audience sweeping three sides of the ring, awaiting the forthcoming dramatic showdown.
We open with referee Steve George (James B) reviewing a match he refereed in his glory days. Time winds back to 2004, where we are thrown into a puzzling scene and the lovable single mother, Carlotta Burns (Charlie L), enters the stage alongside her trusty washing machine. Her joie-de-vivre is infectious as she directly addresses the audience but obscures underneath the pain of watching her son drift away like her ex-husband. She is interrupted by her son, Cameron Burns (Will H) who enters via the washing machine, devours a plate of jelly beans “for energy”, and infuriates his mother. Will’s performance as Cameron was undoubtedly a standout of the night. He shone throughout, both in energetic fight scenes, and in the more emotional moments of the play. He moved us deeply with his childlike naïvety, then surprised us with unwavering confidence. We were then plunged into the gym, where we met Bobby Burgess (Obum O) the hard-headed boxing coach. Obum embodied this character from head to toe. He commanded the space, each line delivered with a conviction that brought this gym coach to life. In the gym, we see Cameron train hard under the watchful eye of Bobby and the other boxers.
After much practice Cameron is chosen along with Ajay Chopra (Herman A) and Neil Neil (Will S) to turn pro – much to the disappointment of fellow boxers Ainsley Binnie (Archie P) and Dina Massie (Louis E). Louis’ was yet another fabulous performance of the evening. Playing the only female boxer in the gym, he had the mammoth task of portraying a character who loved boxing, but was unable to play for simply being a woman. Louis created a complex arc as Dina is seen to become more and more disheartened, which was made further apparent when she becomes a ring girl near the end and is reduced to being a glamorous assistant. Meanwhile, the men that surround her are pursuing their dreams.
Boxer Ajay is sent out of the club, and Bobby trains up his recruits to face him. The top challenger, Neil, is tragically involved in a car accident, and has to pull out. Cameron has no choice but to step up. Here we reach the climax of the play where Ajay and Cameron compete in a major tournament against each other. The fight scene that follows was a meticulously choreographed piece of physical theatre. The cast’s incredible use of slow-motion movement paired with high tension music excelled in provoking excitement, with everyone sat on the edge of their seats. Flashing lights and convincing physical reactions from the cast pulled the audience into the fight which made the scene extremely memorable. Cameron receives a killer blow from the arrogant Ajay and enters a vegetative state, and the heart-wrenching final scene shows his formerly joyful mother broken by her every fear being fulfilled.
In all, the play was very well executed, and we can’t wait to see what the boys of WING have in store for us next.