Boxing gloves come off on stage
Simon Ward's new play promises to pull no punches.
The Auckland actor and playwright is tackling a topical subject by playing a sportsman dealing with the ramifications of a violent outburst.
Thumper, playing at The Basement in early February, explores the "mongrel mentality" within some sporting codes by charting the aftermath of an assault by a professional boxer.
The Grey Lynn resident plays the boxer and Simon Wolfgram a court-appointed therapist carrying out a pre-trial mental health assessment. The drama revolves around the therapist who works to establish trust with the reluctant boxer while also trying to make sure the fighter's brutality does not go unpunished.
Written over the past year, the play confronts an old issue given prominence through the jailing of New Zealand Rugby League player Russell Packer for an unprovoked assault on a Sydney street.
Mr Ward says the simple dramatic set-up - two characters working through a specific situation - provided the opportunity to explore what drives this kind of behaviour.
"I think in certain codes there is bit of a mongrel mentality that is allowed to perpetuate and I think there are a lot of young guys who struggle with compartmentalising the way you behave on the field and the way you behave out in the world."
Mr Ward consulted a clinical psychologist to get the assessment details right and transformed himself physically for the role to better convey an athlete's presence.
"The director said it's not like we see you in the ring going 12 rounds with someone, but you are combative all the time, hostile and reluctant.
"I did have to have that way of carrying myself. It's definitely a shift for me to play that sort of person."
He says the play promises to be confronting.
"When you are dealing with violence you would be doing a disservice to pull your punches - so to speak."
Thumper is playing at The Basement for five nights, opening February 4.
Visit basementtheatre.co.nz for more information or iticket.co.nz to book.