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Review of Fight Night at The Vault Festival

Fight Night. VAULT Festival. Photo Mark Senior. (Pete Grimwood and Edward Linard).
Fight Night. VAULT Festival. Photo Mark Senior. (Pete Grimwood and Edward Linard).

Now here’s a conundrum. I love going to The Vaults Festival and I really enjoy immersive theatre. However, even my best friends wouldn’t call me sporty in any way and I am really not all that keen on boxing – two men fight in a ring and get paid millions, two men fight in the street and end up in the cells. So you can imagine that when I was asked to go to the Vaults and see an immersive production set around a boxing match I was in two minds as to what to do. However, FOMO being the mother of all necessity, along I went to see Exit Productions latest production Fight Night.

The production is set in the world of boxing where a new promoter has set up a match between an old boxing pro, Ian “Bam Bam” Bradshaw and an up and coming usurper to the crown, Joe Williams. However, Fight Night is so much more than a boxing match and over the roughly 90 minutes run time, the audience get to delve into every aspect of the noble sport of boxing. More importantly, the actions of the audience decide the final outcome of the fight, which is very realistic and beautifully put together by Fight Choreographer Jonathan Holby.

This is where writing a review becomes difficult. As an audience member, you are free to wander around Dev J. Danzig’s set and therefore everyone’s experience of Fight Night is going to be different, as the many stories and scenes, beautifully interwoven by Directors Joe Ball and Chris Neels play out. In my case, I was lucky enough to randomly become a VIP. This led me into a storyline where, and without giving anything away, my desire to be a winner completely wiped out any moral and ethical code I thought I lived by. One of the best parts, for me was chatting to other audience members and sharing the things they had seen and heard with them and others and I would recommend that if you are seeing the show as a group, you split up for a while and compare notes afterwards as there is an awful lot going on just out of sight. The seven-strong cast (Ben Lydon, Brendan O’Rourke, Edward Linard, Hannah Samuels, Jessica Jeffries, Pete Grimwood and Simon Pothecary) really work hard to ensure everyone gets as much out of Fight Night as possible – I even got roped in for a boxing training session and an interesting discussion about the state and lack of appreciation in women’s boxing in the sports world. By the time the fight started, I was sitting on my comfy sofa – the privilege of VIP life – and ready to watch two grown men beat the heck out of each other. I shouted for my favourite and was suitably disappointed when they didn’t win. This was the point where the show ended and, I have to say, the ending did disappoint me a little. I sort of expected something different – a police raid or a quick tally up to see who had won the most money among the audience – oh yes there is a lot of betting going on.

However, that final part aside, Exit Productions, who won the Innovation Award at last year’s Festival with Revolution have really shown that they are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to immersive theatre. Fight Night had me hooked from the start and, although still not my No 1 sport, for ninety minutes, in a vault under Waterloo station, I was a total fan.

4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

After winning the Innovation Award at last year’s Festival, Exit Productions return to VAULT 2019 with the world premiere of Fight Night – their most ambitious immersive project to date. Fury, excitement and tension build as two boxers enter the ring and it is up to the audience who is crowned the champion.

A knock out can change a life. A points decision can end a career. With a live fight every night the audience can become kingmakers, influencing the outcome of the bout. Recreating the thrills of live boxing, Fight Night will also offer the opportunity to meet the people behind the scenes orchestrating the excitement including trainers, promoters and the fighter’s own family.

As whispers and rumours run rife through the arena before the fight, it is up to the audience how they will use the information – to influence the outcome, to find out where the corruption is coming from or to make some money?

Director Joe Ball and Chris Neels
Producer Exit Productions with help from Nadezhda Zhelyazkova at Full Sail Productions
Set design Dev J. Danzig
Musical direction James Frewer
Fight choreography Jonathan Holby
Lighting design Nick Murry
Additional academic help and dramaturgy from Adam Alston, Surrey University and Broderick Chow, Brunel University.

Cast: Pete Grimwood, Edward Linard, Ben Lydon, Brendan O’Rourke, Simon Pothecary, Hannah Samuels, Jessica Jeffries.

Twitter @exitprodu #FightNight, @VAULTFestival
Notes Ages 15+

Fight Night
Performance Dates Wednesday 30th January – Sunday 17th February 2019, 7pm and 9pm
Running time 1 hour 30 minutes
VAULT Festival, The Vaults, Leake Street, London SE1 7NN
https://vaultfestival.com/

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