Until You Hear that Bell
Sean Mahoney seems totally at home and at ease on the stage. A spoken word artist and member of the Roundhouse poetry collective, he’s loose-limbed: a natural. His first solo show describes his years as an amateur boxer. His father first introduces him to the sport as a kid. He’s unsure at first but gradually gets in to it, gets good at it.
His story plays out within three-minute boxing rounds, the scenes changing when the whistle blows. Mahoney describes what it is to train, to grow in skill and confidence, to hit and be hit, while also touching on things outside the ring: his relationship with his father, his worries about his GCSEs.
There’s an ambling, almost conversational tone to his delivery, which is deceptive; he’s a really skilled storyteller, drawing you in; he’s particularly good at capturing a child’s eye perspective on things, like his open-mouthed shock on first seeing one man hit another. His writing is nimble and light-footed, full of little asides. It’s funny – he has great timing – but he’s also created a piece with weight and range.
A casual and comfortable performer with a winning smile, his style becomes more physical as the show goes on. He whips out a skipping rope and skips until his skin glistens and his cheeks flush pink. In the end he makes the decision to leave boxing behind, to go down a different path, and, similarly, by the end of Yael Shavit’s production you feel you’ve watched him grow up.