Image Credit – Becky Matthews

Punch drunk on polemic and drab rather than dab with the jab of drama, and the crisp uppercut of comedy, Theatre Travels’ production of THE SWEET SCIENCE OF BRUISING is on the ropes early due to a dreary exposition abetted by declamatory delivery.

Set in in London 1869, Joy Wilkinson’s play focuses on four very different Victorian women who are drawn into the dark underground world of female boxing by the eccentric fisticuffs fixated Professor Sharp, showman and charlatan, a laud of the ring.

There’s Violet, determined to be a doctor, Matilda, a typesetter for The Times supplementing her meagre earnings from printing with prostitution, Anna, escaping from domestic violence, and Polly, the sparkiest of the contenders, part of a brother sister pugilist pact, a scrapper with natural instincts and ability.

All of them need to punch above their weight to secure some semblance of equality in a male dominated world – societal and sporting.

The cost of loosening their economic corsetry (let’s face it, when women are considered chattel there is no room for evolution, only revolution) is high. From ostracism and clitoral excising, persecution and prosecution, these females fall foul of law, medicine, and predominant patriarchy.

THE SWEET SCIENCE OF BRUISING is an epic tale of passion, politics and pugilism, but somewhat a misnomer. It should perhaps be better named as The Sweat Science of Bruising.

Not much sweat raised in this production though, little of the showbiz with blood, the definition of boxing attributed to Frank Bruno. The declamatory disposition, the clunky scene changes, the disparity between action and speech has this production pulling its punches and extending the bouts into tedium.

Esther Williams as Polly is the saving grace, floating like a butterfly, stinging like a bee, fleet of foot and fist, fizzing with effervescence and energy.

THE SWEET SCIENCE OF BRUISING plays Flight Path Theatre, Marrickville till July 2