Gypsy Queen at King’s Head Review

The scrappy new play at King’s Head Theatre


As anyone who watched the ten anticlimactic rounds fought between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr. after the drama of the billion-dollar build-up will quite readily attest to, it’s what happens outside the ring that’s often more interesting than what occurs inside. This is no truer than in Gypsy Queen, a new play at the King’s Head Theatre.

It follows the sweat-soaked travails of two young boxers in a northern boxing gym, both very much living in the shadows of their fighting fathers. Dane ‘The Pain’ Samson is a gifted fighter training under the tutelage of his Dad, the sort of gruff, no-nonsense northerner who automatically addresses everyone by ‘dickhead’. With his eyes set on an upcoming title, Dane is very much cock-of-the-walk in the gym, but his golden reputation is threatened by the arrival of brash, young scrapper, George ‘Gorgeous George’ O’Connell, who’s tenacious confidence and poetic outlook is not entirely dissimilar to McGregor. Their shared arrogance riles each other at first, but they are brought closer as they come under mounting pressure from their respective parents. Much, much closer, as it happens.

Gypsy Queen clocks in relatively short at an hour, but much like a boxer weighing in at just under their upper limit, it’s toned, taut, and carries no deadweight whatsoever. It’s a relentlessly energetic production, with only two actors, Ryan Clayton and Rob Ward (also the writer and producer), taking on all of the roles; both very much from the FitLadz school of scally hotness. Layers of clothing are constantly shed and reapplied as they spin through the guises of staunchly religious Irish mothers, crooked boxing coaches, and a scorned ‘definitely-not-a-boyfriend’. The writing’s full of characteristically sharp northern wit and the one-liners come at you like a constant flurry of jabs (‘there’s been more sightings of Lord Lucan than of you at Mass’ comes from the sweary and sacrosanct mother of Gorgeous George).

It’s currently in the midst of a short run as part of the Queer Festival at the intimate King’s Head Theatre until 23rd September, so don’t miss your chance to catch this hilarious and touching depiction of queer love trying to thrive in a bolshie atmosphere more attuned to violence than to showing affection.

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Gypsy Queen is at King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, Islington, N1 1QN, every night (except Mondays) at 9.30pm until Saturday 23rd September

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