Venue: Assembly George Square Studios – Five
Gypsy Queen returns for its second year to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, presenting a timely and relevant glimpse into attitudes towards sexuality in the sporting world. Exploring the misconceptions paired with masculinity and sexuality, Rob Ward’s articulately crafted play captures a touching human story at the heart of this issue.
“Gorgeous George” O’Connell (Ward), a traveller and bare-knuckle scrapper, moves into the world of professional boxing where he is pit against gay boxer Dane “The Pain” Samson (John Askew). The pair’s rivalry quickly transgresses into a romantic bond which sees the two fighters forced to face their own battles regarding their roots, identity, and careers.
Queer sexuality in sport is something that’s often reduced to a small headline in the media, therefore its refreshing when bold, unflinching works like Gypsy Queen come along and put a relatable and emotive human story at the heart of the issue. Using the context of boxing adds further thematic interest – due to the physical machismo and flaunting that the sport attracts. This is also heightened by George’s working class traveller background. Therefore from its onset, Gypsy Queen feels like a fresh and original take on the varying creeds and colours that make up the gay community.
As George battles his inner-insecurities regarding his sexuality, Dane’s battles concern the homophobic attitudes of those closest to him. Seeing both boxers use their shared dynamic as a way of tackling these personal demons throughout the narrative, helps fully invest us in their connection and ensure that Gypsy Queen is an engaging, emotive experience. Sublime turns from Ward and Askew add further conviction to this dynamic, with the connection and energy between the actors feeling authentic and natural.
Praise should also go to the welcome humour in Ward’s narrative – particularly shining in Askew’s additional role as George’s Irish mother. Inventive production and direction also help the story at the heart of Gypsy Queen to shine.