Monday, 11 November 2002

Sugar: The Story of a Boxer, Nov 11, 2002

Sugar: The Story of a Boxer  by Don't Get Upstairs
La Mama at Carlton Courthouse   
8.30pm Wed to Sat, 6.30pm Sun until November 16, 2002
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Two-hander clown shows are becoming de rigeur  on the  Melbourne fringe theatre circuit. Sugar: The Story of a Boxer, by Joseph Sherman  and Nick Papas,  is no exception.

This is a slight and short piece with plenty of slapstick routines. It has some funny, charming moments and very cute characters.

Sugar does, however, have some gaps and flaws that might need attention in any further production.

Sugar (Sherman) is a fictional boxing champion. He is born to Mamma ( Papas) in a shrill birthing scene performed in a goofy clown style. He emerges from between Mamma's legs as a fully dressed boxer.

We follow Sugar's life and career from birth through his early childhood Mamma feeds him on Sustain  cereal that miraculously makes him grow into a huge fighter.

He trains for the boxing ring, accidentally knocks out his trainer, fights a big, bad Jamaican, falls in love and, finally, wins the World Heavyweight Championship.

Sherman and Papas perform in traditional red clown noses. In classic clown form , they postpone all action, perform directly to the audience, charm and engage us.

One of their comic signatures is that they make a meal of scene changes. They put on special see-in-the-dark spectacles and take forever to moving a table and changing costumes.

What makes it funny is that we can see every silly thing they do in their pseudo darkness.

This device is funny initially but is laboured and over-used by the end of the show. We know the gag by the third time then it stops being funny.

Papas and Sherman play dual roles: their actor-clown personae as well as the characters in Sugar's story.

They address the audience as Boris ( Sherman) and Bertie (Papas). Boris has a Russian name but a wonderfully fake French accent. Bertie seems to be from somewhere between Greece or the Baltic.

Both actors have delightfully mobile faces. They grimace and pout, grin and squint at us as Bertie and Boris fumble their way through their Story of Sugar's career.

With some tightening of the script and action, this will make a sweet clown show. We may look forward to their upcoming show:  Russian Soup.

By Kate Herbert

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