Within the world of sport, homosexuality is still very much the love that dare not speak its name.
It is this that Gypsy Queen explores as two boxers who have been trained to fight dare to find love, and in doing so find themselves. This 70min production is a funny, harsh and tender examination of what it is to be gay in the world of boxing. With plenty of testosterone and naked flesh it’s also pretty hot.
Dane ‘The Pain’ Sampson (John Askew) is a boxer from a family of champions. When his trainer father brings into the fold new kid ‘Gorgeous’ George O’Connell (Rob Ward) the stage is set for some serious professional competition, not to mention sexual fireworks.
Askew and Ward play all characters and they do so with absolute sensitivity, fun and with a cheeky twinkle in their eye. From a broken-backed coach to a Catholic mother with a foul mouth (a particular highlight), they seamlessly switch roles with effortless skill. Askew uses his native northern accent and dead pan delivery to brilliant affect.
Ward matches this with some fabulous one-liners with perfect timing. They have a natural chemistry which feels totally organic and is genuinely touching. The sex scenes are handled with a care and ease that only comes when two actors are completely comfortable with each other.
This isn’t a deep exploration into the social politics of homosexuality within sport but then it doesn’t try to be and the production is all the better for it. Instead it is a touching love story that celebrates the passion for sport, faith and sexuality in all it’s complexity. The ending feels a tad muddled and the sound isn’t exactly subtle. However, when you’re in the hands of two such accomplished performers who are a joy to watch this hardly matters.
With only five performances you’ll need to be quick to catch this little gem of a show. A strong, endearing and sexy story that certainly packs a mighty punch.
Gypsy Queen plays at the Vaults as part of the Vault Festival until Sunday 4th February. For tickets click here.
Words by Matthew Hyde