Spoken word artist Sean Mahoney’s one-man show bobs and weaves through the punches of boyhood.
Telling the story of his own youth as an amateur boxer, Until You Hear that Bell is about ‘learning to hit and getting hit, impressing your dad, about failing, about your parents breaking up and playing on a Sega Dreamcast.’
Performed at London’s Unicorn Theatre for young people, the 60 minute show is set to timed-boxing rounds. Keeping it’s audience switched on and attentive, the short, regular intervals also provide a control unit for measuring how Sean grows as a fighter and as a young man. Whatever challenges he comes to face, boxing is something that he consistently improves at.
Comfortable on the close, pared back stage, Sean came out to greet his audience smilingly. He engaged with the school kids laughing in the back row and fixed the crucial clock that stopped 50 minutes in with a laugh.
His poetic delivery was deceptively modest. Sean was able to move from child to teenager to young adult with the subtlest of indicators in his language, instead of prolix wordplay. Whether he’s ‘leaving his toys behind in the car’ or starting to swear, his words carry a weight that goes beyond face value.
As time ticked on, not only did his speech become faster and louder, the way he moved himself around stage gradually changed. As a child, his steps were slow and deliberate, always looking up to his elders for reassurance. As he gets older, he is sure-footed as he travels independently from corner to corner, school to home to gym.
The show felt formed of a scrapbook of Sean’s perceptions and memories, and watching real footage of a young Sean in a match was a particularly nice way of sharing the personal inspiration behind it.
As the clock marked the hour, the audience were witness to Sean growing up into the person left on the stage.