With searing vitality, rock-hard commitment and what appear – to the unaccustomed eye – to be pretty convincing feints and punches, the young cast perform what must be one of the most energetic and deftly-choreographed pieces of drama on this year’s Fringe.
For a macho world with men at its centre, it’s Vicki Manderson’s young spitfire Dina who stamps on your heart when her visions of glory in the ring are bent out of shape, while McIntosh brings a perfectly-pitched warmth and humour to Carlotta, her tender closing lines bringing a sob to the throat.
The Big Issue in Scotland * * * * *
The knockout power of Frantic Assembly’s co-production with the National Theatre of Scotland is that it offers a glimpse into another world. It makes you understand the thrill and the sweat, the pain and the power, the gnawing hunger and what the phrase “seeing stars” really means.
It’s the way this story is told – through a mix of video, replays, a revolving stage and some astonishingly choreographed training sequences – that makes it so compelling.
Frantic Assembly turn something aggressive and male into something beautiful and painfully tender as they trace the exquisite thrill and exquisite pain that occurs when you push your body and reach out for the stars.
A brilliantly acted exploration of what makes boxers box and what happens when a shooting star shimmers, shines brightly and falls to earth.
The Guardian * * * *
Underworld provide the music and the sound is fantastic, pulsing out through the auditorium like a heartbeat. The athletic cast, sweat pouring, punch, jump and skip their way through the show with aggressive zeal. The climactic fight scene, on the other hand, played out skilfully at full tilt, in slow-motion and freeze-frame by Ryan Fletcher and Taqi Nazeer, takes on an almost balletic, hypnotic quality.
Like Black Watch before it, Beautiful Burnout has all of the ingredients of a knock-out hit.
The Independent * * * *
There’s an undeniable thrill to being sat ringside at any contact sport, and it’s one that no theatre first night will ever match. Frantic Assembly directors Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett have recognised this in the breathlessly choreographed endurance test for actors that is Beautiful Burnout . . . the sweat and blood of hard-fought discipline and boot-room camaraderie has the characters ricocheting off each other like upper-cuts.
Frantic Assembly have created an impressively dynamic affair, with a crackingly well-drilled set of performances that pull no punches.
The Herald * * * *
What’s striking is not the play’s familiar boxing story, but the world of possibilities opened up by its staging . . . that allows us to pause and restart the action, and look at it from angle after angle, exploring the poetry, horror, beauty and sheer danger of beautiful young bodies in motion. . .
At its best, Beautiful Burnout is spectacular, lyrical and thought-provoking, in its exploration both of physical energy itself, and of the interaction between text and movement. And it features a series of performances so eloquent, and so blazingly committed, that they sometimes leave the audience gasping.
The Scotsman * * * *
Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett’s production lands its biggest punches when it shows us the training drills: pumping, sweat-drenched pieces of choreography that capture the raw, bruising power as well as the balletic grace of this bloody sport. The actors, in peak physical condition, push themselves terrifically hard.
Evening Standard * * * *
Frantic Assembly and National Theatre of Scotland’s Beautiful Burnout is a technical knockout, bringing to life the sweat and poetry of boxing on a stage designed to look a ring, in front of a bank of video screens.
Sunday Times * * * *
A compelling drama that’s by turns funny and very moving. . .
Choreographers-turned-directors Scott Graham and Steve Hoggett take Lavery’s cracking script and run with it, creating a show that’s at once grounded in reality and full of flights of fantasy. And the super-fit cast are roundly excellent, particularly the young actors who meet the challenge of acting, boxing and dancing often all at once. A knockout.
The List * * * *
. . . An intensely visceral experience that recreates the testosterone-fuelled excitement of a boxing match in the Pleasance’s impressive new space.
Beautiful Burnout is most exhilirating when Underworld’s soundtrack kicks in at a deafening volume and the cast convey the physical demands of Bobby’s brutal training regime with synchronised push-ups, star jumps, skipping and body blows in powerfully electrifying three-minute bursts.
Metro * * * *
Stunning . . . Oozing quality, the action switches seamlessly from surreal dance sequence to hyper-realistic sporting enactment, poignant soliloquy to knockabout comedy . . . this production will surely be a festival smash.
Lavery’s script is thoughtful and thought-provoking and looks without flinching at a sport that promises glory and can lead to ruin, Powerful stuff.
Lothian Life * * * *
[Beautiful Burnout] is perhaps as close to the rawness of a real match as you can get. The only difference is that these fighters don’t spit blood. . .
These four boys and one girl actually hit each other; their fitness, dedication, and sweat are certainly for real. . . Breathtakingly choreographed scenes show in detail the physical beauty in boxing and the fighters’ coordination and control. When the actors pause mid-blow, a change in lighting allows the audience to admire the split-second thought processes as each boxer contemplates his retort. This is stunnign theatre.
I’ve never been to a boxing match, and i’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like it, but Beautiful Burnout has tempted me. Carlotta says, “It’s as good as sex, but less complicated.” Seconds out. I saw stars. This show’s a knockout.
British Medical Journal