Feet First Collective Artistic Director and Creative Producer Teresa Izzard has tackled the legends of Frankenstein and Medusa. Now, the acclaimed creative has put her gloves on to face one of her most challenging and intimate projects to date, in 'Shadow Boxing'.
“I tend to pick projects that scare the life out of me,” Izzard explains while on the phone ahead of a busy day of rehearsals for 'Shadow Boxing', which she is both directing and producing. . . And presenting as part of Perth's Fringe World.
The play, written by James Gaddas, is a complex character study about a young boxer, Flynn, who is struggling to accept his identity as a gay man in the world of competitive boxing. Fearful of rejection from his family, friends, and peers, Flynn internalises his struggles until he is eventually forced to own his identity. Gaddas’ script delves into the paradox of humanity, which is represented through the metaphor of hands: which can be used to create, hold, and caress, or to beat, pound and destroy.
'Shadow Boxing' is arguably Feet First Collective’s most intimate show, where performer Samuel Addison’s only on-stage counterpart is a boxing bag. “It’s the smallest show we’ve done. We work on the epic and the intimate and this is definitely the most intimate. It’s very exciting and scary at the same time to go this is you just on the stage for both of us”, Izzard says.
“(Samuel) plays multiple characters and he shape-shifts and turns into the trainer, into the lovers, the bullies, the father, other fighters and so he’s got a plethora of characters – which is a challenge for the actor and that’s something Sam does an amazing job of.”
While the play was originally written in the '80s, Izzard believes 'Shadow Boxing'’s moving story is still relevant for today’s audiences. “I’m usually the person that picks the works that we do, but this was actually pitched to us by Donald Woodburn, who is a member of the board. He thought the show was an incredible work, an incredible vehicle for our artists and that it was a conversation that he feels, as a gay man, really needs to still be happening particularly in the sports world, where we don’t see an inclusive spread of sexuality.”
“His perspective is that while some things have changed a lot and we have come a long way, a lost still hasn’t,” Izzard continues. “We felt we needed to keep this conversation going and it needs to be happening in all areas of society including the heterosexual community. He’s very passionate about that and feels change is only going to happen when this conversation is brought out from other communities and into others.”
“What’s really beautiful about this piece is that it takes extreme oppositions and places them in the boxing ring where they face off against each other like vulnerability, masculinity, violence and love and it’s all there – and he’s struggling with all of this – his childhood, his father, his context on a familial level and this social level in this boxing world and it all positions him to reject his sexuality but he’s not able to do that because it’s part of who he is, so we see him going on this journey.”
'Shadow Boxing' recently opened in Sydney, where audience reactions reaffirmed to Izzard why this story needs to be told.
“When we did the show in Sydney, one of my ex-students came to see the show. He might be 30 now, and he was just like, 'this show encapsulated so much of my queer rage'. And we also had older couples come in and were a bit like Donald who had been in that same period and also really connected to the piece, so we want people to take away a range of things from the show – a sense of being seen and heard, which has been reflected back to us in our feedback from audiences back in Sydney, and on a wider level of that.”
However, audiences can expect a slightly reworked production at Fringe World, which Izzard is excited to share.
“It’s being pulled apart and refreshed for Perth. It has the same bones and joints, but the muscles will be different.”
'Shadow Boxing' is on at The Jonesway Theatre (Fringe World Perth) 8-11 February.