Women were allowed compete in boxing in the Olympics for the first time in 2012. Around the same time, writer, Charlotte Josephine, felt her individual femininity questioned by a patron at her work who told her she was not looking particularly ‘ladylike’ that day. The positioning of women in the world of athletics and conceptions of femininity and gender are the foundational inspiration to Bitch Boxer, a one-woman one act about twenty one year old Chloe Jackson and her fight in boxing and in life. But throughout that foundation, Bitch Boxer infuses love, family and being young into its story and heart.
Holly Augustine takes center stage as Chloe in Bitch Boxer and manages to make captivating and engaging what could otherwise be an abrasive and potentially grating character. Talking a mile a minute and moving just as fast, Augustine’s physicality as Chloe screams hyperactive fighter, someone who is never going to give up and stop fighting. After a while, this non-stop energy, with little respite, begs for a moment of silence, a chance to breath. While hysterical and with perfect comedic timing, some of the inner emotions get a little hidden beneath this intensive dance. Yet Bitch Boxer gives us that moment of quiet about two-thirds of the way through and it is spectacular. It is like taking a breath between fights – the energy remains but it allows that tension the chance to stretch out and thicken. Comedy, emotions and realistic physicality of a youthful athlete, Augustine brings Chloe to life. She also challenges conceptions of femininity: there is a fantastic scene in which, after many moments featuring her hardened fighting exercises, Chloe breaks into a dance at a club. In her gym shorts and boxing shoes she captures the smooth hip movements and exaggerated seduction of a young woman dancing with friends at a club.
Adding to this scene is the brilliant work by lighting and sound. The music choices alone, from country to Eminem, capture Chloe’s emotion, family background, and age. But beyond the choices, the precision of lighting and music cues make the show crisp and set the mood.
The characters and the setup (abrasive youth dealing with an emotional hurt by hiding and putting on a front) are not revolutionary. At times too loud, the jokes too can verge on abrasive (I am thinking particularly of one involving the Iraq War and addiction to war). Yet the charisma of Holly Augustine and the genuine likability of the character overcome these slight pitfalls and in the endBitch Boxer triumphs.