Touring – reviewed at the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch
Sucker Punch by Roy Williams delivers more than one or two physical and emotional punches throughout the play. Set within the boxing club environment throughout the production. Every battle fought within the play takes place in or around the boxing ring.
Set during the 1980s and written during that era, the piece is drenched with racist language and insults that run through the dialect with ease. Attitudes echoing from the past are, on several occasions, met with a loud gasp or jeer from the audience. The reflection from those attitudes at a time are now unwelcome in today’s society, and so they should be.
Desperate to be accepted by the failing boxing trainer Charlie (Liam Smith), Leon (Shem Hamilton) is the next potential champion after Liam’s hopeful trainee boxer Tommy (John Rogers) is lured away by a rival trainer. However, the one thing standing between them is the colour of Leon’s skin, and he does everything within his power to be accepted by Liam. Even allowing the trainer, who has gambling issues, full control of his money! Despite his phenomenal sheet relationship, he fails to ever become close or mutually respected.
As the punches are thrown the relationships between families, friends, and trainers become disjointed and fractious. Nobody trusts one another and the inability to see beyond the colour of the skin prevents true bonds from forming.
Fight directors Enric Ortuño and Nathan Powell director bring a powerful boxing play to the stage. Personally, as a pacifist, I don’t applaud fighting in any way. However, knowing the punches are staged, the insight into the world of boxing is an eye-opener, and the dedication and sacrifices made by the athletes to be top of their sport are admirable.
It’s certainly one of the most captivating productions I have seen so far this year. Strong casting with outstanding performances. The memories of that era came back to me as I would have been the same age as Becky (Poppy Winter) during that time in the 1980s. I would highly recommend this play running at Queens Theatre Hornchurch from March 30th to April 15th 2023.
For further information about the play and future productions please visit the link below.
Photo credit Manuel Harlan .