Ding ding! Like a cautious fighter, Billy Roche’s travelling roadshow-set drama steps out of the corner and eases round the square circle, quietly sizing up its audience.
With a boxing ring at its centre, it’s obvious that Delaney’s Travelling Roadshow is a world for fighters, for men living on the move, no home to call their own, no ties to keep them grounded; just them, the road and the ring.
This is a world where aggression is king and you can see the testosterone dripping off the characters. This is a world where the biggest man, the biggest threat or the biggest character rules the roost, metaphorically parading the championship belt proudly above their head. A world of has-beens, wannabes and never-weres vying to be the top dog.
While the mouthy pocket dynamo Dean and his quiet, languid, more talented colleague Junior – the show’s two working fighters who take on all comers – rut like young stags, former boxer and show owner Theo throws his superior weight around and trainer Peadar, safe in the knowledge of what he could do were he to raise his fists in anger, provides the quiet voice of calm, tired of the constant battle.
Into this world of reminiscences and dreams where everyone could have been a contender steps Theo’s erstwhile abandoned daughter, disturbing everyone’s emotions, upsetting the roadshow’s only woman, Lily, and threatening the status quo.
Lay Me Down Softly is not a glamorous prize fighter of a show. It does not have the glitzy showmanship of Prince Naseem Hamed or David Haye. It does not throw big, swinging knock out punches. Nor does it have the gritty bloodiness of bare knuckle brawlers.
It is a quietly interesting journeyman pugilist, simply going about doing a sterling job. It throws out jab after jab to keep the slice of life dynamic ticking along, bobs a little, weaves a little, occasionally throws in the odd cross or upper cut to keep things interesting. It is the honest, struggling, everyman fighter with a hint of the Rocky Balboa about it; an everywhere and nowhere-set tale, with an additional cast of never seen characters, where life is all about the fight and fighting is a way of life.