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Gypsy Queen

Rob Ward
Hope Theatre Company
The Vaults

Rob Ward

I bet you were impressed by all those posters celebrating gay boxers being promoted by the boxing industry determined to counter the kind of prejudice expressed by Tyson Fury when he seemed to be equating homosexuality with paedophilia.

You would have been impressed if they had got round to it.

But then they also haven’t got round to challenging the prejudice against the Traveller community. Fury, who is a member of that community, said he had suffered abuse because “nobody wants to see a gypsy do well.”

Rob Ward has given the industry a helping hand with his play Gypsy Queen which depicts two gay boxers, one of whom is from the Traveller community.

Dane "The Pain" Samson (John Askew) is a successful fighter who has lost the killer instinct following something that happened in the ring. His Dad, the former boxing champion Vic Samson, runs the gym where he trains. He tries to shake Dane out of his mood by recruiting to the gym the bare knuckle fighter George O’Connell (Rob Ward) known as “Gorgeous George the Gypsy King”.

Although everyone at the gym knows Dane is gay, Vic keeps it a secret from the public to avoid problems. But the journalist Paul Taylor has heard rumours and wants an interview.

George has barely admitted to himself that he may be interested in men. He has certainly had no sexual encounters until Dane spots his secret and makes a sudden sexual advance that could have gone badly wrong. There is no initial consent but it turns into an awakening for George.

When their relationship is noticed, it becomes a testing time for George as a cousin warns him of probable O’Connell family anger.

Things become even more difficult when Dane returns from seeing a friend who has been severely beaten for being gay. Dane feels it's time he went public about his sexual identity. That puts a strain on everyone as they are forced to reveal where they stand.

This is a fine play that illustrates the difficulties facing gay boxers. It shifts from short poetic monologues (after all some boxers have a reputation for poetry) to brief scenes of naturalistic dialogue. We even see a bit of boxing.

Here’s an idea. The Boxing Board of Control and some of the money-heavy boxing promoters could sponsor it and let it be known they like the show.

Wouldn’t that be an idea?

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna