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Review | Sucker Punch | The Lowry | 02/06/2023

British playwright Roy Williams is taking over The Lowry this week, with a show playing on each of its two stages. I caught Sucker Punch at the more intimate Quays Theatre. Having debuted in 2010 to critical acclaim at the Royal Court Theatre in London, it has been revived for a UK tour.

Sucker Punch follows the battles in and out of the boxing ring for best friends Leon (Shem Hamilton) & Troy (Christian Alifoe). Set in 1980’s Britain, the racial tension and casual homophobia is palpable. Although the racism gets some gasps, the homophobic slurs occasionally cause an uncomfortable laughter from the audience. This is testament to why we should never shy away from sensitive topics, in the hope that through theatre, people will question their own prejudices.

What worked particularly well were when issues around social acceptance and interracial relationships were challenged through an 80’s lens. Whilst not everything has progressed since the 80’s as much as it perhaps should, this piece successfully encapsulated the time period in which it was set. It had a sense of authenticity and Britishness that other productions could only dream of. Through this it successfully balanced humour against drama, which is not an easy thing to achieve.

Shem Hamilton gave a strong and convincing performance as Leon, with some of the best parts of the show being his monologues chronicling his fights and road to success. This had much more power and resonance than any more traditional fight seen could have achieved.

Where this production failed to pack a punch was in its pacing and some of the character development. Whilst the first act had the audience wanting more, the second act didn’t as strongly deliver. Whilst the writing had the audience disliking characters such as Charlie (Liam Smith) and Ray (Ray Strasser-King), it would have been great to have wanted to root for the other characters more in opposition of this. If perhaps the characters had been delved into more, more empathy could have been felt for them as an audience.

Sucker Punch provides an enjoyable evening at the theatre, although it fails to pack as big of a punch as it perhaps could with a few changes. It remains at The Lowry until Saturday 06 May 2023. See below for booking information:

Note: My ticket was gifted. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.


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