Review | ‘Shadow Boxing’ an engrossing play that packs a punch

Shadow Boxing | Jonesway Theatre | til Feb 11 | ★ ★ ★ ★

In this emotionally raw and physically demanding monologue, Samuel Addison plays the role of Flynn – a boxer whose biggest battle lies outside the ring. While Flynn begins training for the national title bout, he simultaneously faces an emotional reckoning as he grapples with his queer identity.

Originally written in 1989 by English actor and writer James Gaddas, Shadow Boxing investigates identity, sexuality and the conflicting pressures of masculinity in the modern world.

Staged in the intimate Jonesway Theatre with a consciously minimal set (a black punching bag cuts a lone presence on the stage), Shadow Boxing is gripping from beginning to end. I was struck by the sheer physicality of Addison’s performance – he covers every inch of the stage as he nimbly delivers his lines while jabbing at opponents, both real and imagined. 

We accompany Flynn as he experiences pivotal moments in his path to manhood, from encounters with schoolyard bullies to witnessing his father’s jaw-breaking defeat in a critical boxing bout.

Walking away from his childhood tormentors and his defeated father, Flynn begins to hone his own skills in the ring as he embarks on a journey of self-discovery and self-defence.

Despite Addison’s compelling performance, the monologue format resulted in moments where there was a lack of clarity as the script jumps between characters and timelines.

At times, we only get a general sense of what is happening or which character Addison is playing. Nevertheless, this does nothing to detract from the engrossing play which packs a lot of punch in just 50 minutes. 

While I’ve never stepped foot in a ring, Shadow Boxing’s core themes transcend the world of boxing and even the experiences of queer men. This provocative play will leave you questioning society’s expectations of us all. And what a delight to have a ringside seat.

Shadow Boxing runs until Sunday 11 February. Grab your tickets at fringeworld.com.au

Jeffrey Disney is half Malaysian, half Brit (but full of wit), and Perth’s most recent transplant. Despite sharing a famous last name with ol’ Walt, he is still waiting for that golden ticket to Disneyland. Though his day job is rooted in numbers, in his spare time, Jeffrey has dabbled in musical theatre and acting. He is most likely to be found belting out tunes at the karaoke bars of Northbridge. Images by James Dove. 

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