Views & Reviews Review of the Week

Fight club

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 06 October 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5383
  1. Richard Hurley, assistant magazine editor, BMJ
  1. rhurley{at}

The beauty and allure of boxing are inescapable in this exciting piece of physical theatre, finds Richard Hurley, but so are its brutality and futility

What is it that makes young men want to be king, to put on a pair of gloves, to get in a boxing ring, to pummel the living daylights out of each other? Beautiful Burnout is a spectacular piece of theatre that explores this question. It’s perhaps as close to the rawness of a real match as you can get. The only difference is that these fighters don’t spit blood. And this time, thank goodness, the heart wrenching conclusion is purely play.

These four boys and one girl actually hit each other; their fitness, dedication, and sweat are certainly for real. They dream of fame and fortune, as do their mentors. Whether these potential rewards are enough to compensate for the possible risk of damage to their health is left for you to decide.

The skilful performance is accompanied by an emotive narrative: a mother’s hopes—and her fears; the boxers’ intoxication with their sport; their trainer’s paternalism and greed; and the trash …

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