I’m Your Man is a show created and directed by Roslyn Oades. For 18 months Oades followed around a promising up and coming boxer, Bill ‘The Kid’ Dibb, and documented his quest for an IBF World Title Belt.
This piece of headphone-verbatim theatre is a culmination of all her research into this dynamic world. As Oades says, she was attempting ‘to capture adrenaline on tape’ and it has translated well to stage. Throughout the performance the actors wear headphones so they can listen to the dialogue of real people Oades interviewed ringside, in dressing rooms and training gyms. The actors ‘channel’ the voice of the person they are portraying by repeating what they say (and how they say it) as precisely as possible. When you go into a show with this knowledge, the way you watch is transformed. You largely ignore the actors- they become incidental, almost ventriloquist dummies- and focus instead on the voices of real people telling real stories, and it is fascinating.
I knew very little about, and confess I had very little interest in, the world of boxing prior to seeing I’m Your Man. However, the show brought so much depth, warmth and understanding of the people who inhabit this subculture. It was fascinating to hear all of their ambitions, fears, and motivations (pride, money, glory, fame, getting a brother to move over from Nigeria, personal achievement etc). There were moments of humour when the audience could see an enormous lack of self-awareness in some of them, and I confess I was ill at ease laughing at real people rather than the fictional characters I am used to engaging with at the theatre. The set, a realistic training gym, immerses the audience in this adrenaline-driven world, with its rhythmic sounds and impressively fit actors. This is a beautiful play, which treads the boundary between the stage and reality. It really is a case of art imitating life, to great effect.
I’m Your Man played at the Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre from 28-31 August and goes on to tour the Hothouse Theatre in Wodonga from 11-15 September 2013, and Riverside Theatre in Parramatta from 20-21 September.