‘The Sweet Science of Bruising’ Presented by Department of Theatre Highlights Violence Over Narrative


By Haley Freeman, Arts Writer


“It’s not enough simply to think and write and speak, we need to do something,” said Violet Hunter.

An Afternoon in the Ring

Ladies and gentlemen, I am very pleased to present to you a play concerning four lady boxers in 19th century London, entitled “The Sweet Science of Bruising.”

Playing until Feb. 26 at the Babcock Theatre, “The Sweet Science of Bruising” is a 2018 play written by Joy Wilkinson showcasing four women on a quest for freedom who uniquely find it in the boxing ring. I spoke with Lina Boyer who plays Aunt George, the mother figure of Violet Hunter, briefly before the show opened. Boyer described the show as an empowering and reflective story mostly involving upperclassmen from the University of Utah Musical Theatre and Acting programs.

“The Sweet Science of Bruising” is inspired by the true history of women’s boxing and revolves around four women, Violet Hunter, who dreams of being a doctor, Matilda Blackwell, hoping one day to be loved for her thoughts more than her body, Anna Lamb, a perfect wife stuck in an imperfect marriage and Polly Stokes, who aspires to be the Lady Boxing Champion of the World.

Lights Fade in

In support of sorority Alpha Chi Omega’s Healthy Relationships Week, I saw the show opening night. It was a packed house with a lively audience that laughed, gasped and cheered as the show went on. A little over two hours with one ten-minute intermission, “The Sweet Science of Bruising” is action-packed, weaving together the characters’ lives and hosting plenty of action boxing and fencing scenes.

There are many takeaways from “The Sweet Science of Bruising.” While I’m sure some left the theater empowered by the success of the characters in the concluding boxing tournament, I found myself still stirring over the many degrees of violence and death the characters were involved in. We see a husband harm his wife which leaves a horrible feeling in your stomach as an audience member. When we later see women perpetrate physical abuse as a means of self-defense in a harmful situation, is this wholly justifiable? I have always been an anti-violence person, so shouldn’t all physical abuse have the same consequences? At the end of the day, violence and physical aggression can harm people and it should be looked upon the same no matter if displayed by a woman or man, and such depictions can be triggering for some audience members. 

A Show for Older Audiences

Though a heavier play suited for older audiences, “The Sweet Science of Bruising” is the perfect play if you are looking for a thought-provoking show centered around an interesting premise. I would say my enjoyment of the play was fine, the main limitation being the material itself, not the actors, stage design or costumes. The topics discussed in “The Sweet Science of Bruising” are so sensitive and multifaceted that I didn’t think they were developed as completely for the material itself to be a true triumph. 


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