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Detailed but passionate, funny but with real sinews and a firm, forceful message, Oliver Forsyth’s Cornermen is a smart and immensely enjoyable play set in the hyper-competitive world of UK pro boxing.

Mickey, Drew and Joey are a team of trainers on the lookout for a solid talent investment. They are looking for a ‘Journeyman’, a middling boxer who can take his punches and earn their pay cheques. What they find in Sid is a real contender, but the pressure to turn a fast profit soon sees them pushing him well beyond his comfort zone and into a world that threatens to break his spirit, as well as his skull.

Written and delivered with a blokeish good humour, the real victory of Forsyth’s script is in its well-judged lacing of boxing trivia into the action. The history of the sport, the lingo and the dirty tricks used to stay ahead all add vital flesh and colour, and add to a real sense of care and affection for the world naive Sid is inducted into.

Strong performances from the young cast keep the action taut, particularly from James Barbour as Sid’s impatient coach Mickey. The lack of a visual language for the fights themselves is occasionally frustrating, but in every other respect Cornermen is a right-hook out of nowhere. A real knockout.

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A knockout sports play that sees a naive young boxer caught in his coaches’ ruthless climb to the top