The actor spoke to Love London Love Culture’s Emma Clarendon about the history behind The Sweet Science of Bruising, playing at the Southwark Playhouse from 3 October.
Hi Bruce thanks for talking to me. Could you explain what audiences can expect from The Sweet Science of Bruising?
A startling look at a world rarely seen. It’s a fantastical take on a pre-suffragette world of 19th-century England when women were making up what it might mean to seek their independence from male domination. We may think of that world as one of restraint and prissiness. In fact, as it seems, independent-mindedness was afoot. And women, damn them, were beginning to think – not to say kick against the pricks…
What was it that attracted you to taking part in the production?
It’s a beautifully crafted play with pace, heart and guts. The language is joyous and the situations vital and unexpected. It was irresistible.
Could you tell me a bit more about your character and how he fits into the story?
He’s a 19th-century odd-ball who just loves the idea of promoting boxing as a proper sport, away from the bare-knuckle, no-holds-barred brawls. You could say he’s buzzed up by boxing, in spite of his apparently staid background. He relishes his crisp language just as much as the crisp punches of his protegees. He’s a promoter.
What would you say is the main message that comes through in The Sweet Science of Bruising?
Possibly that the truth is stranger than any fiction. That we too easily generalise about the past and think we know what it was like. The play urges us to look at the fact that in all times there are people breaking the mould – for many different reasons – and somehow affecting, therefore, our own present. ‘Message’ is in some ways an old-fashioned concept in the theatre nowadays; our audiences will certainly not be beaten over the head with ideas, but through the tale of four women Joy Wilkinson gives us four proto-feminists who fight – literally – their ways to some sort of fulfillment. Maybe they have to go down an unconventional route to do this, but their lives will never be the same again. Yet this is by no means a dreamy happy-ever-after story; it sort of pre-echoes later struggles.
When you first read the script what were you initial impressions of the play? I assumed its tale and the world of that tale must be fictitious. Yet it was written with such truth too. Only starting to work on it and research it further did I come to realise that, during the time it looks at, real women donned real boxing gloves and really fought each other. This in an age known for its ‘shrinking violets’.
If people are thinking of coming along to see the show – why should they book a ticket? They will be in for a fast-moving witty, raunchy, combative evening. What’s not to like?
By Emma Clarendon
The Sweet Science of Bruising will play at the Southwark Playhouse from the 3rd to the 27th October. For more information visit: https://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/show/the-sweet-science-of-bruising/