Fringe Review: Trick Boxing

US theatre ensemble Sossy Mechanics gets Fringe Festival Praha off to a fighting start

It was a sound choice to open this year's Fringe Festival with Trick Boxing, a lovely little gem of a piece, set in 1930s America.

Curiously compact, with one actor playing a handful of characters, the show tells the story of Dancing Danny David, apple-seller, romantic and the greatest boxer to walk this earth…or so his promoter would have us believe.

The real story revolves around the promoter (and narrator), the boxer-to-be and, of course, the girl. Call it a love triangle with a twist.

Throughout the hour-long performance, the main actor plays the part of the shifty promoter, the immigrant apple-seller, the bookie, the announcer and the swindler. The charm of this piece lies in the carefully composed transitions between each of the charismatic characters.

Brian Sostek does a beautiful and effortless job of moving from promoter to immigrant to bookie and back again. The ease of the transitions is considerably aided by the wonderful dance sequences inserted intermittently throughout the show. It's clear from watching these sequences that both actors are, first and foremost, polished dancers. Their routine is exuberant and light-hearted, embodying all the adrenaline and grace of the swing era. Even more delightful, however, are the training sequences that display the symbiotic nature of dance and boxing to excellent effect.

Given the polished portrayals of the male characters, one would hope to see the same level of characterization happening with the female lead. This dance hall girl who tutors the apple-seller in the art of dance, boxing and love, lacks the same vibrancy as the other characters. Perhaps, it is because she is more of a dancer than an actress. Still, her character is a minor one in many respects and her movements are what carry much of the dance and training sequences.

Furthermore, despite the polished nature of each of the male characters, the storyline itself did not live up to the characters within it. This is partially because we (or at least I), as the audience, are not led to care about the main characters. I felt a lack of connection that would move me more simply to a place of emotional involvement with the characters. In some ways, the strengths of this piece are also its weaknesses, as the constant shift from persona to persona does not always allow for a more intimate involvement with the protagonists.

All in all, the show comes recommended. The minimal stage design and the very compact nature of the show lend it a fluidity and light-hearted grace that moves the viewer to applaud its fairy-tale ending, despite its triteness.

Trick Boxing is playing every day at 7pm at the Nosticovo divadlo theatre until Sunday, June 6th. There are also extra shows on Saturday, June 5th and Sunday, June 6th at 2:30pm.

For more information see the Fringe Festival Praha website.

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