Growing Up Ringside
Growing Up Ringside is a recording of a live show featuring author and sole performer Mina Liccione. It seems highly unlikely but a show about the misadventures of a New York born Italian American is filmed in Dubai. Still, as Liccione omits few details from her autobiographical show, the reasons are eventually explained.
The daughter of a boxing promoter, Liccione spends a lot of time ringside and finds the experience serves her well in life. She is bitten by the performing bug at an early age, putting on routines for friends of the family. Despite incurring injures so severe she is assured she will never dance again, Liccione finds fame as a cast member of Stomp and eventually broadens her range into comedy. An invitation to perform in Dubai results not only in her changing her place of residence but also pioneering a comedy scene, getting married and raising a family in that country.
Growing Up Ringside walks the thin line between stand-up comedy and theatre. Liccione is more of a storyteller than comedian but many of the tales end in punchlines and puns abound. As might be expected of a dancer, she is a highly physical performer—crashing to the ground, to operatic backing, demonstrating how she used to entertain at home. It is credible she won a role at Stomp using such energetic moves she spilt her pants and thanked the casting directors for the exposure.
In a highly varied show, Liccione occasionally slips into verse, describing boxing in a surprisingly lyrical manner.
The humour in Growing Up Ringside is decidedly old school; it is not a show to watch if you are in any way sensitive about stereotypes. Liccione claims she left a room "faster than a feminist at a comedy show". Most of the humour comes from cultural stereotypes or misunderstandings. Liccione’s Italian family are characterised as behaving like they are in The Sopranos. Her neighbourhood includes so many men named ‘Tony’ the name must be followed by an adjective to clarify their identity. Liccione wonders if it would kill the mood to tell her husband the extremely erotic underwear worn on their wedding night is a present from his mother.
This is a lush production. Director Ali Al Sayed surrounds Liccione with three massive screens upon which scenes are projected. These do not simply set an atmosphere; they also illustrate the stories or prove their veracity. In case you wonder if Liccione might be exaggerating how Muhammad Ali offered her inspirational advice, a film of the incident pops up on screen.
An unfortunate effect of the use of the screens is, however, as the camera pulls back to give a full view, the quality of the recorded sound deteriorates. More significantly, the growing use of excerpts from family home movies feels manipulative; an easy way of prompting a feel-good response.
Growing Up Ringside mixes humour with inspirational life lessons which get a bit heavy handed as the show progresses and the more frequent use of excerpts from home movies slows the pace. It remains, however, a very funny and completely engaging show.
Reviewer: David Cunningham