Star rating – 8/10
The Royal Court is radically transformed into a 1980’s boxing ring in this play by Roy Williams. And the set design by Miriam Buether really works. You really do feel that you are in a ring side seat for all the action.
This is the story of two young black boys who fall into boxing by accident, and end up taking very different routes to success. But their success is bitter sweet. One, Leon, ends up the product of a racist trainer, derided by the local black community, and even his own family, for being an Uncle Tom. The other, Troy, is a similar pawn in the game, this time with a black American trainer, but equally powerless to decide his own future.
Under the direction of Sacha Wares the thrilling fight scenes are brilliantly choreographed, with not an actual punch being thrown but the resulting sweat drenched violence feeling no less real for that. Daniel Kaluuya stands out as an exceptional young talent in the part of Leon, his arrogant bravado and confidence mixed with naivety and loneliness.
The biggest laugh of the night came when Troy’s trainer, Ray, tells Leon to take his whooping like a man ‘You British should be used to that’. That line stung after the England team’s fiasco of a performance only the night before. But Sucker Punch is no laughing matter. It is a powerful play with a depressing message about the way all sections of society can abuse the dreams of young black people, and lure them with the promise of riches, only to dash those dreams in the process. Very well acted all round with many young cast members more than holding their own in this particular ring.