The set up was simple.
A white platform. 6 actors. 65 minutes. 2 matches. 1 story.
But do not be deceived, Prize Fighter packs a hell of a punch.
You see, Prize Fighter is not your run-of-the-mill, alternative theatre piece. The La Boite Theatre play possesses a mythical quality which belies a story that can only be told by someone who has lived through the painful realities of war.
It tells the story of Isa, a young, upcoming Congolese boxer who battles not only tough and powerful challengers in the boxing ring, but also suffers staggering blows from inescapable memories and inner demons. It is a heartfelt, dramatic piece that walks its audience through the trauma of family loss, displacement and the unspoken realities of war.
Inspired by his own story and those of the people he knew, Congolese-Australian playwright Future D. Fidel masterfully weaves a tale about a boy soldier caught between fighting for his future and his past. Not unlike Isa, Future and his family members were forced to flee to Tanzania during the 1996 civil war. He spent 8 years in a refugee camp before being granted refugee status in Australia, all whilst trying to search for his sister. In 2004, they were reunited.
“The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has reported a death toll of 5.4 million Congolese since 1996 – that’s almost a quarter of Australia’s current population,” 30-year-old Fidel shares.
His protagonist comes to Australia as a refugee to embark on a new life, forging a new identity and path for himself whilst never letting go of his desire to find his family. It’s a story that strongly resonates with the times, as Australia and the rest of the world struggle on how to deal with the refugee crisis. In a climate where everything has been reduced down to statistics and figures, Prize Fighter reminds us of the universal, human truths of the crisis – which is what makes it so compelling and so hard to look away.
“Part of this work reflects Future’s story; his history. Part is a fiction, but the stories are real and everything in this work derived from real situations that Future experienced directly or indirectly,” says Todd MacDonald, the show’s director and La Boite Theatre’s Artistic Director.
“Future’s incredible debut play captured our imagination and his energy and positivity infected us immediately.”
Prize Fighter is currently on a 3-month tour across four states, with sold out shows at the Melbourne International Arts Festival and it is not hard to see why – Prize Fighter has established itself as a rare theatrical treat where audiences experience the thrill of combining live boxing and storytelling.
But if we look beyond the brilliantly-structured production, stellar performances and clever, simple delivery, at its heart lies a story that matters.
Real experiences and real voices creates art that is transformative – the kind that grabs you by the throat and forces you to reflect, forces you to walk in someone else’s shoes. With records of people walking out of the theatre punch-drunk with newfound empathy and appreciation, it is clear that Prize Fighter is a knockout.
Prize Fighter is a powerful, moving piece of theatre for all walks of life – challenging the limits of our imagination and empathy. If you are lucky enough to catch it on tour, you should.
“Defeating your opponent requires strategy, but defeating your memories requires more than just that. Regardless of who or what your opponent is, everyone is a Prize Fighter.” – Future D. Fidel, Playwright
For more information on the tour and the play, click HERE.