From fight choreography so visceral you’ll feel every blow to writing that packs an emotional punch, Prize Fighter ducks and weaves with astonishing grace. The play marks the debut of a Congolese-Australian writer Future D. Fidel and, after raved-about seasons, finally steps through the ropes to stagger audiences in Melbourne.
In the lead up to its Melbourne Festival season, The Melbourne Critique had the chance to speak with Todd Macdonald, Artistic Director of La Boite Theatre, the company responsible for this work, about his take on directing, creative process and the contemporary resonance, which theatre holds
odd, introduce us to the work and what are the central mechanism to its plot; what concepts do you think it explores?
Prize Fighter is a work by Future D Fidel who is a Congolese refugee – it is an amalgam of true events (not all happened to him, though). The work focuses in, on a central character Isa, who is a recently arrived refugee and ex-child soldier; it follows his journey to redemption and healing via his passion and calling as a boxer. The work is set in and around two vital boxing matches that are central to his progression as a fighter but, also, his journey through the trauma of his experiences as a child soldier and the death of his family.
How is this work relevant within the contemporary, and what resonance has been struck between performance and reality-
This is an African-Australian narrative which is rare to see on our stages – it deals, most obviously, with the journey of a person fleeing a war-zone and the associated trauma that it comes with. Prize Fighter reminds us that everyone is on a journey, everyone has experienced hardship – some more extreme than others, and we hope it builds tolerance and changes the conversation around the ideas of seeking asylum and refugees in our communities. It is also a great story of hope and personal achievement in overcoming extreme hardship – a universal theme that all communities are connected to, in one way or another.
Talk to us about the creative process behind his work, what, in your opinion, is key to its longevity, tours and success?
The work took many years to create. Nurturing Future in his first ever journey into play-writing, was a careful process of building trust and development and nurturing of his talents. The work premiered in 2015 with the support of the Brisbane Festival and, then, was bought by Sydney Festival and Belvoir Street Theatre; it was here that we undertook further creative development, refining the script and structure of the work. It keeps developing and changing and that is key.
The cast are vital, too – having a team that can, actually, step up to the physical demands of a work is vital; Pach and Gideon have been central to that process – but, it has also seen 3 new cast members come into the ensemble. It is extremely exciting to see the emergence of such talented and diverse actors within the industry.
Theatre is a place where people come to have their perception challenged, to be altered; ultimately, theatre is there to make us feel something; so, what emotions does this work evoke within audience and in those that have, through creative process, come into contact?