Drayton Arms Theatre, London – until 4 December 2021
Guest reviewer: Jake Laverde
Business and boxing collide in this revival of Yasir Senna’s play by Razor Sharp Productions. Alisha Harper-Gill is on the ropes, fighting for her career when faced with a trumped-up disciplinary hearing. But like Mohammed Ali’s historic bout with George Foreman, it’s all part of her plan.
Originally put on at Baron’s Court theatre in 2013, Rumble! is set in 2009 during the aftermath of the global credit crunch. But this is a smaller scale story tackling the culture of sexism and macho posturing at the top of the corporate ladder, themes that are sadly all too relevant still.
Despite being put on in a small space, there’s an impressively sized cast. Claire Monique-Martin and Richard Houghton Evans lead as Alisha and Peter respectively with a large supporting cast.
The play’s biggest flaw is that the first act lays heavily on the exposition that’s more functional than intriguing. Though it follows employment law to give Alisha two warnings before a final disciplinary, some dramatic license would have been appropriate here. Despite the number of things happening, it’s a slow introduction and one that could have benefitted from some heavy editing.
However, when we get to the hearing itself is when the play starts to come alive. It’s also here where the boxing metaphor is deployed. Throughout the hearing, Alisha commentates on the infamous 1974 match between Ali and Foreman. The ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ that the title refers to. It’s an effective analogy too. 12 points of contention against Alisha. 12 rounds for her to fight through.
As anyone familiar with that classic fight is aware, Ali was believed to be long past his prime and easy pickings for the new kid on the block Foreman. Like Ali, Alisha is placed in another seemingly unwinnable situation which unfolds neatly and comes to a satisfying conclusion.
Another criticism is that the outcome is a little too neat. Once the hearing is underway, there’s not much jeopardy or surprise. But thanks to an engaging performance from Monique-Martin, Alisha holds our attention throughout and her emotional journey from despair to defiance convinces. Evans also deserves a special mention here, as Peter he cuts a slimy figure here reminding me of Rik Mayall’s Alan B’stard.
While not quite being a knockout, Rumble is an entertaining and engaging production. There’s a tension in the latter half effectively conveyed by the supporting cast performances as uneasy alliances crumble. Though there’s few surprises here, Monique-Martin’s Alisha puts up a decent fight.
Rumble is running at the Drayton Arms theatre until Dec 4th.
‘An entertaining & engaging production’: @jake_levarde enters the ring with @RazorSharpProdu’s #Rumble, @YasirSenna’s play in which ‘business & boxing collide’ at @draytonarmsSW5. Via @braintree_. #theatrereviews #OffWestEnd #bullying