by Roy Williams.
Set in the late 1980s Sucker Punch concerns two young black men who turn to boxing as a means of coping with a racist society. It is a complex work that shows ideological divisions within the black community and how both white and black entrepreneurs can exploit these divisions. It also provides a multi-generational perspective – albeit almost exclusively from a male viewpoint – which gives it an added resonance.
The Royal Court is reconfigured for this production. The stage is a boxing ring, with seating at the frontand back; mirrors on each of the sidewalls give an impression of added depth and crowd numbers.
Two school friends, Troy and Leon, are working at a gym run by a former boxer. He is also training a young white hope, who he knows will eventually leave him for better economic prospects. The two friends present different aspects of the black experience and also how the black community regards its successful members.
The central performance of Leon carries the whole play and in Daniel Kaluuya‘s portrayal is full of extraordinary vigour and sensitivity.
Welcome To Thebes
By Moira Buffini
Moira Buffini’s play takes its story from Greek mythology. The action revolves round the troubled city-state of Thebes and it deals with the supernatural interventions of the gods in the already complicated lives of humanity.
In Buffini’s re-telling some of the male protagonists (for example Creon) have been replaced by their female counterparts (Eurydice) and autocracy replaced by democracy. However this is all filtered through the troubled history of post-colonial Africa and the real politick of ‘benign’ aid from an Athens (the so-called cradle of ‘democracy’) that is a metaphor for the 21st century USA.
This multi-layered approach allows Buffini to explore areas such as male vs female politics, imperialism, the levels of democracy in different states in different parts of the world and the complex role of global economic interests when it comes to the trial and punishment of the perpetrators of war crimes.
There is a lot of deep and disturbing material here; but also a lightness of touch, political insight and – perhaps surprisingly - big laughs. The large Olivier space with a single set is well used. Scenes overlap in a chamber style but there are also grand set pieces. For once in this space flashy technology is not used to cover up imaginative gaps in a production. The biggest stage effect involves the arrival of a helicopter. This happens only in sound and air disturbance – the aircraft lands off stage and out of sight.
The play is clearly directed by Richard Eyre and the large cast is uniformly excellent. Leads David Harewood as Theseus and Nikki Amuka Bird as Eurydice are outstanding, while Chuk Iwuji.s opportunistic Prince Tydeus also deserves mention.