After an award-winning run at last year’s festival, immersive theatre company Exit Productions return to the Vaults with a show that explores exploring toxic masculinity, deceit and greed as they unfold around a boxing ring.
Directors Joe Ball and Chris Neels maximise the use of an unconventional space with precision. The atmosphere of the arena and surrounding rooms is impeccable, with selective lighting making some areas uncomfortably bright and some prohibitively dim. The actors duck in and out of these shadows to great effect, from shouting in the centre of the ring to pulling individual members of the audience aside to enlist them in some scheme or tell them a choice piece of information.
In fact, the choreography of the audience is the star of this show. There are only a few moments in which every attendee is watching the same action, but for the rest of the runtime they are all completely engaged and involved in some small subplot. An issue immersive theatre often faces is the “milling around” effect as less committed participants wait for something to happen. During Fight Night, however, the audience are picked up and deftly passed from actor to actor, given tasks and decisions that ultimately decide the outcome of the bout. No one is left to stand for more than a couple of seconds before they are grabbed again and hustled into a different node in a web of priorities, intentions and manipulations.
The actors shepherd the spectators well, with some convincing performances, but they are underserved by a plot that is ultimately threadbare and inconsequential. Many of the subplots that different audience members engage in never surface or overlap, leaving lots of characterisation untended and storylines disparate and unfinished. This means that theatre-goers cannot see or understand the logic that leads to the final decision of which fight takes place and who wins, making the ending abrupt and unsatisfying.
Ultimately, the plotlines and their construction don’t do justice to the excellent concept and set design, never quite turning into something as spectacular or dramatic as what is promised in the first few movements. Fight Night is undeniably entertaining and fun, but the potential of any deeper meaning or brighter spectacle is left unfulfilled.
Photo: Mark Senior
Fight Night is at Unit 9 from 30th January until 17th February 2019. For further information or to book visit the show’s festival page here.
Read more reviews from our Vault Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Vault Festival website here.