RAYMOND ‘FIGHT’ BECK / JUST TO WRAP IT UP

The birth metaphor is often used when describing the preparation period of some literary work or project. In this context, Raymond “Fight” Beck was an elephant. It didn’t take a mere nine months to complete but like an elephant pregnancy it took over a year and a half.

In all honesty, I never guessed that it would take so much time and work. This project came to my mind for the simple reason that a person who is very dear to me never attended the theatre and I took it upon myself to try and create a theatrical piece based on what he loves – boxing. But the fact is that I believe these projects are a practical way for us to strengthen and increase our theatre audiences.

A crucial point of the project was the link that we created with the local boxing scene. Our being present at gyms and the boxing ring was important for us to get a full experience of the sport, but also to spark interest among those who are very rarely interested in going to the theatre. And in truth, I think that the inerest was reciprocal. In the sense that we didn’t just entice boxers to come to the theatre but also theatre people to approach boxing.

As a writer I feel that Raymond “Fight” Beck was a crucial experience for me to grow in the medium that is so close to my heart. As I already mentioned, the process was long but help was at hand from several sources. First off, I had Simon Bartolo as my script mentor and from the very start he put everything I wrote under the microscope and we discussed how it could be improved. The script also underwent the rigorous testing of various readings. For each reading we made sure to invite both people with a theatrical background as well as people who are well acquainted with the world of boxing.

When we were more or less happy with what I had achieved on paper, we started another important process, the selection of the cast and the creative team. This too took its time. We examined the talent, both local and foreign, so that we ended up with a group of people who were available to give their time and focus all their creative energies on this project. It was of great personal satisfaction for me, that based on the script, which up to that time was the only concrete thing that we had in hand, we managed to attract some of the most talented locals who had, for some reason or other, moved away from the theatre scene.

After that, the team got down to business. The actors started building their characters. We had a group of people that studied the Żejtun dialect and did their best to make their characters sound as authentic as possible when they spoke. Naturally we also had another group who, months in advance, started working with Steve Martin – our coach – on the ring. From the artistic aspect, work commenced on the first designs to see how we were going to have a boxing ring in the theatre at Spazju Kreattiv. And the thought process began for what kind of light, sound and audiovisual the production should have, apart from a lot of other work.

I’ll be the first to admit that although I was very happy with the script on paper, I never imagined that what I’d written, my black markings on white pages, could be the basis for so much further artistic work. This was another source of gratification for me. To my mind, seeing one’s own work serving as a springboard for other artists to create such interesting work, has to be one of the greatest satisfactions for any artist.

Naturally, nothing would have been possible without the involvement of several people with big talent and an even bigger heart. There were over forty people who worked on the project. And it all happened also thanks to creative and sports institutions that believed, like me, that Raymond “Fight” Beck had potential. Among these were: Spazju Kreattiv that promptly put the project on their programme; the Arts Council that gave the project financial support; Fight Factory that introduced us with their extensive boxing family; and Teatru Malta that took the project under its wing and like a good training coach brought it to the ring.

The production has come and gone. The audience came and commented. On the day when you go to the theatre to take everything down, you get a little downcast. You know that all that will remain are some photos and memories … and in this case, maybe a little bruise here and there. A closed chapter? I believe that we haven’t yet heard Raymond “Fight” Beck’s final bell. For now we’re going to keep the gloves.