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Theatre review: Flying Penguin’s Solo

Theatre

Flying Penguin Productions’ Solo is a simply staged but mesmerising presentation of two plays exploring love and death, and how the human spirit can cope with adversity.

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Directed by David Mealor, the production comprises two monologues: Bitch Boxer is the story of Chloe Jackson, a young female boxer who wants to make the Olympic team, and Sea Wall is the story of Alex, a young man who is highly successful and has everything to live for.

 The front room of the Goodwood Theatres, with a door to the street, is an excellent venue for an intimate theatrical experience: it can be a community hall, a boxing ring, a nightclub or just a space where people can meet.

Jordan Cowan is excellent as the young Cockney Chloe, who, against the odds, is an up-and-coming boxer. Chloe is tough, lives in a rough neighbourhood, admires and respects her dad, and is sorting out her emotions and relationship with her boyfriend, Jamie, who struggles to understand her.

Cowan charismatically takes the audience on Chloe’s journey. The message is that winning or losing is not as important as being able to carry on, to compete and to remember snippets of wisdom imparted by loved ones.

Jordan Cowan as the tough young Cockney boxer, Chloe.

Bitch Boxer is thoroughly entertaining, encouraging us to laugh and cry with Chloe as she experiences the highs and lows of the boxing ring and her pursuit of success.

The young boxer exits into the street and, after an interval, actor Renato Musolino enters the intimate studio from the same real-world door.

From his very first words as Alex, Musolino strikes a light and amicable tone, quickly developing a rapport and relationship with the audience. He, too, is an excellent storyteller and we are intrigued by his descriptions of his wife, daughter and father-in-law, his career, holidays and hobbies.

But after the laughs, the philosophising about God and the descriptions of a fabulous life, he recounts spellbinding scenes of a parental nightmare. Musolino’s compassion, warmth and sincerity will melt the stoniest of hearts; it is a chilling, outstanding performance.

Bitch Boxer and Sea Wall – by UK playwrights Charlotte Josephine and Simon Stephens, respectively – are well-written plays that remind us of the fragility of life, the value of loved ones and that individuals cope with life’s blows in different ways.

Solo is a memorable night out in the company of artists who have thought deeply about what gives life meaning and actors who share with us their rare gift of creating what seem to be real people telling a true story.

Flying Penguin Productions is presenting Solo at Goodwood Theatres until September 16. Read Greg Elliott’s interview with director David Mealor here.

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