Review: One Night In Miami by Kemp Powers. Nottingham Playhouse

There are no flies on Nottingham Playhouse’s most exemplary production of Kemp Powers’ powerful play One Night In Miami. Yet we, as voyeuristic onlookers are the fascinated proverbial flies buzzing from wall to wall, dipping into the drama’s deliciously tasty ice cream moments and hanging on to every word of the four superb actors playing Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown.

This regional premiere of One Night In Miami is the perfect drama. It is exciting, wryly funny, totally involving and poignant in its reflections. It has a great deal of dramatic soul, both empathetically and musically. It is a slice of 1960s US Black Civil Rights history revisited and contains overriding socio-political themes that still resonate today including, white privilege, the struggle and desire for true cultural integration in our world against direct and covert aspects of racism. It is also about the four characters’ strengths and ambitions as black men in 1960s America.

This evening’s incredibly diverse audience has everyone sympathetically and whole-heartedly engaging in director Matthew Xia’s top class production. The brilliant cast is made up of Christopher Colquhoun (Malcolm X), Conor Glean (Cassis Clay), Matt Henry (Sam Cooke), Miles Yekinni (Jim Brown) with Oseloka Obi (Jamaal) and André Squire (Kareem).

The four main protagonists stand out for the authenticity of their characters, the accurate vocal tones and accents, their great humour and the integrity and vitality of their playing. Henry’s deeply soulful singing as Sam Cooke is outstanding. Obi and Squire as Kareem and Jamaal, the Nation of Islam guards at the hotel, give terrifically understated performances. As far as people perfect- pitch perfect – high quality theatre goes, One Night In Miami has it all.

We cannot review this without mentioning the other formidable star of this play. And that is the amazing set design by Grace Smart who also worked with director Matthew Xia at Nottingham Playhouse on another important #BlackLivesMatter show last year – Mufaro Makubika’s Shebeen.

The pastel coloured set proves much more than a beautifully recreated 1964 style hotel room in Florida but to explain why would be a big time spoiler on some superb dramatic effects. Linbury Prize winning designer Grace Smart excels with her One Night In Miami stage creation. Cairán Cunnigham’s lighting design and Max Pappenheim’s sound design are professionally superb.

One Night In Miami is witty, entertaining and dramatically educational. Highly recommended. Runs at Nottingham Playhouse until Sat 22nd June.

Kemp Powers’ One Night In Miami is produced with special arrangement with ABKCO.

Production photos credit. Richard Hubert Smith.

 

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