First produced in 2010, Sucker Punch continues to be hilarious and outrageous at everyone’s expense. Razor sharp wit that’s as merciless as the sport it’s centred on. Paired with outrage, Roy Williams starts as he means to go on – there’ll be no mollycoddling of wokies here. The n-word gets dropped early and it keeps on going from there with“monkey”, “boy” and “your lot”. I’m being constantly triggered and it’s getting laughs, hell I’m laughing and it’s a bit uncomfortable sometimes coz you know white people are laughing too but most of the time you’re lost in Roy Williams wicked sauce.
During a cost-of-living crisis, it’s a relief to see something relatable with the major antagonist of the play being capitalism which is personified by the slick American businessman Ray played by Ray Strasser-King. Chaz, or Charlie, played wonderfully by Liam Smith, represents the everyman, drowning in debt because of his loyalty to the purity of the game (as a working-class artist, I definitely relate here too). There seems to be a decline in working-class theatre currently which is a crying shame because what is the role of art if not to reflect the world we live in and provide some solidarity with our audiences?
Leon’s father Squid, played by Wayne Rollins, is a runaway success. The lovable rogue you suspect was initially written in to provide some comic relief but it’s him the audience want more of (overheard during the show “Wish he was my dad”). The play ends without providing a resolution to their relationship which personally I felt featured the bigger betrayal than the one the story centres on.
If you couldn’t guess from the title and the lead image, Sucker Punch is a very male play and unfortunately like most male plays disappoints with the one-dimensionality of female characters. The one woman in a cast of seven is a sexy redhead who has all the boys queueing up round the block. Not only is she a sexy fiery redhead who can handle herself around testosterone fuelled lads, she’s forbidden fruit as the white man’s daughter. Poppy Winter does her best in a limiting role. Given more than a decade has past I implore the writer considers how to update the play, so women are more than jailbait or an absent mother, I promise you it’ll make for an even richer play.
The social commentary on race is far stronger with the protagonist Leon struggling with his black political identity during a time of racial tension in Maggie Thatcher’s Britain. There’s talk of selling out which seems to reference the playwright himself. Troy points out to Leon that the real reason he is tolerated by racist trainers such as Charlie and mostly white boxing audiences is because white people enjoy watching black boys knock the living daylights out of each other. Doesn’t this partly explain the success of black boxing plays in contrast to a thousand of other plays that could be written about the race riots during the eighties? That and a human fascination with staged, gladiatorial and controlled violence.
An entertaining and provocative night at the theatre and a certain crowd pleaser from the sounds of the audiences laughter and cheers. One for all generations, reflecting the changing attitudes of first generation Caribbeans and their sons.
Written by Tasnim Siddiqa Amin.
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Sucker Punch is currently showing until Saturday 15th april 2023 at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. To find out more about the production, visit here…