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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Eyes on the prize

When you think of beautiful storytelling where boxing features as the focal point of the tale, classic films like Rocky, Raging Bull and Million Dollar Baby spring to mind.

The sweet science can convey the metaphors of perseverance and having to fight one’s own battle in a way that translates seamlessly into filmic or theatrical language, as it is in the case of Prize Fighter, a production coming to The Q in Queanbeyan later this month.

Prize Fighter director Todd MacDonald told Canberra Weekly the critically acclaimed piece regularly moves the audience.

“It’s a very powerful story about a kid who’s gone through really extreme trauma; he was a child soldier who came to Australia and discovered boxing, which was his tool for redemption in a way.

“It’s undeniably a live event, it’s like going to watch boxing, it’s much more than a film,” he said.

The work is performed in ‘the round’, meaning with surround seating. MacDonald said that since it consists of two boxing matches with a story woven throughout, it was a logical choice.

“It is literally as much like being in a boxing match as possible, where they stick the boxing ring in the middle of the floor and go.

“All sport is in the round, so I guess that’s a really clear comparison.

“For me, going to the theatre or going to see a live show, it’s always about the physicality, it’s always about what happens in the space between the performers and the audience,” he said.

Having been written by Congolese-Australian Future D. Fidel, MacDonald said the play affords audiences the opportunity to hear and see a story they won’t have experienced before.

“Quite often audiences will say I’ve never met a refugee, what an incredible story and an incredible human being.

Playwright Future D. Fidel based most of the events of the play on experiences either he or those close to him had gone through.

“It’s just a human story about survival and redemption and trying to make a better life where none of us have any idea about that struggle.”

Fidel told Canberra Weekly he based most of the events of the play on experiences either himself or those close to him had gone through.

“I think to have this very authentic is very critical, and to tell a story about other people’s lives it has to be authentic and you have to be careful how you tell the story,” he said.

For him, one of the key messages of the play is redemption.

“It doesn’t matter how dark or bad the struggles you go through, there’s always tomorrow where you can dust yourself off and carry on.

“And to be able to forgive others, that’s another big element of Prize Fighter,” he said.

Fidel said the two elements of the story that have been fictionalised are the main character’s backstory of being a child soldier, and boxing, a sport Fidel never participated in.

“In the ring it’s you against another person. That idea of having boxing is to portray that nobody else can fight your fights, you have to stand on your own and fight for yourself.”

Prize Fighter has gone from strength to strength since its stage debut in 2015, having subsequently been novelised, and now being worked into a screenplay with funding from Screen Queensland.

Fidel said the play’s Queanbeyan run is a great opportunity for locals to come and experience fine arts and see why it’s been doing so well.

Prize Fighter will be at The Queanbeyan Bicentennial Hall 25-28 September; theq.net.au

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