Sucker Punch Review Curve Leicester

Prepare to be stunned, jabbed and knocked-out as Sucker Punch brings the heat to Curve, Leicester.

Press tickets provided for honest review purposes.

It was another trip to Curve Theatre, Leicester last night as I took my younger brother with me this time to catch the opening night of Sucker Punch. Knowing he is more attuned to boxing terminology and could give me the downlow, whilst being a play I thought he would enjoy. As for me though, the surprise was, that I enjoyed it far more than I had prepared for.

A revival of Roy Williams’ story following two young boxers battling it out in the ring and out in the world with police brutality, prejudice, racism and social class divides in the 80s. The divide is evident throughout the play and jabs and uppercuts deep as we follow Leon (Shem Hamilton) try to prove himself and his worth to a world that just won’t see him for him with constant odds stacked against him.

The play commences with Leon and Troy (Christian Alifoe), two young black teenagers who have avoided police intervention following their breaking in to the gym and thus as punishment have to work as cleaners – tossing up bets between who cleans the vile toilets and who mops the floors. With Tommy (John Rogers) on the brink of going pro and following in the footsteps of those before him, he grows less loyal to Charlie (Liam Smith) and Becky (Poppy Winter) and seeks pastures new. Not before a bust-up with Leon though, who now Charlie sees as a potential and takes him under his wing as his new project.

The play is centred aptly around the boxing ring with an office behind. Costume changes and moderations to the set are done cleverly with the use of the gym lockers and the use of the office as both an entrance and an exit for the cast.

Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

I found Becky’s character, the only female cast member, to be an interesting balance to the group. Her character development is strong from teen angst to a mature adult. We see her ‘just a bit of fun‘ turn to love and the toll it takes with dating Leon and the pressures her dad places upon her due to racial differences. We also see her heartbreak when Leon changes from a loyal character to one who chases the fortune and fame and wants so desperately to be accepted by her father who sees him as nothing more than a pay-check and his ‘boy‘.

The breakdown of relationships within Sucker Punch is both sad and prominent in values and societal issues. We see Troy, Leon’s best pal, turn from brothers who banter off one another to strangers in the ring after Leon ran fearful during The Riot which saw clashes between the black community and the police.

We also meet Leon’s father, Squid (Wayne Rollins) who is a comedic balance with his quirks and one liners but also shows a darker side with his questionable lifestyle who is happy to gamble against his own son and leech of him. Despite this, he still is a likeable character who has the audience in stitches but also brings a punch with his line that sums up the play with “White people love nuttin’ better than to see two black men beat up on each other”.

The dynamics between Leon’s relationships were powerful. I thoroughly enjoyed the play, especially complemented by the lighting use and Leon’s solo performances during a fight and his presentation to the audience were both strong and emotive.

I enjoyed Charlie’s portrayal and felt he would often show a sense of vulnerability, especially the symbolic throwing in of the towel in the final fight despite Leon persistent that he could go on. There are times when Charlie shows a strong male father figure and then a crumbling of a man desperate for just one lucky break and another shot. I found Smith handled this seemingly complex role well.

The production was captioned and is captioned for every performance. I did sometimes find that the captions didn’t quite match up time wise or would be further on that the performance which did sometimes pull away from the emotional emphasis. I did however think it was excellent that the accessibility was readily available.

As for my younger brother, “it was alright that”, so I would take that as a complement. He did say he would’ve been chastised for not having a straight arm after some of the jabs, but it certainly didn’t tarnish my viewing experience as a complete ‘know nothinger’ about boxing. Though he did give me the rundown about 10 points and labelled some of the terminology for me.

Sucker Punch is more than just a boxing play, you don’t have to have an interest in boxing to enjoy this play, it is a closer look at racism in England as well as how committed individuals are about breaking away from prejudices and bigotry, especially poignant in the portrayal of Leon who had many a times to give up on Charlie like the rest of his ‘boys’ but instead stood by his downfalls until it ultimately falls back on Leon. The staging, the lighting and the cast makes Sucker Punch a worthwhile watch.

Curve Theatre, Leicester 25 APR – 29 APR
Running time: 1h 46 (including a 20 min interval)
Age Recommendation: 14+, contains strong language and racial slurs throughout

Written by Roy Williams
Directed by Nathan Powell
Designed by Sandra Falase
Lighting designed by Joshie Harriette
Sound designed by Duramaney Kamara
Movement directed by Asha Jennings-Grant
Fight directed by Enric Ortuño
Boxing coach Gary Cooke
Header image Manuel Harlan


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