Interview: Roy Williams | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Sunderland Empire and Sunderland Culture, who run neighbouring The Fire Station, are part of the National Theatre-led Theatre Nation Partnerships (TNP), an innovative network of theatres and community organisations working to grow theatre audiences across England.

As part of the partnership, the award-winning play Sucker Punch ends a national tour at The Fire Station between Wednesday 21st June 21 and Friday 23rd June.

The play, by leading British playwright Roy Williams, explores the theme of being young and black in the 1980s and tells the story of two best friends, Leon and Troy, who have spent their teenage years growing up in a boxing gym. It first opened at London’s Royal Court in 2010 and won the Alfred Fagon Award, the Writers Guild Award for Best Play as well as being nominated for an Olivier Award.

Roy Williams tells us more about the production…

Are you looking forward to seeing your 2010 boxing play performed again?
Yeah. I’m really looking forward to seeing all that director Nathan Powell has done with Sucker Punch. I am happy that he’s making it very much his own. It feels as though he’s taking it a stage further than the original Royal Court production. He’s adding some imaginative stuff to amplify what’s going on inside the main character’s head.

This play helped make a star of Daniel Kaluuya, didn’t it?
He is so talented. People loved Daniel’s performance in the role of Leon when the play was first done. He was so intense and so athletic. He really went through some tough training. He won an Evening Standard Award and we got nominated for an Olivier.

What is the approach to the fight scenes this time?
The director Nathan workshopped with actors and a boxing coach called Garry Cooke who trains young kids at the Repton Boxing Club in East London, where the club motto is No Guts, No Glory. I love the fact that the Royal Court production also had a link with Repton as that’s where they got the boxing ring from for the set – it was like stepping into a working boxing gym in the 80s, with the seats all around 360.

Tell us about the battle sparked outside the ring too?
When the rivalry swings up in the play between Leon and his sparring partner Troy they end up pretty much at war with each other, in terms of what it means to them to be black and British.

How does your Eighties setting echo these themes?
I think that era of Thatcherism really encouraged a sense that we’ve all got to be better than somebody else. There was no real sense that we should work together to help each other.  We’re still living in a selfish age and we’re in danger of it getting more so. The warning signs are there. And, in terms of what it means to be black and British, that question has not gone away. People still ask us, due to the colour of our skin, are you really British?

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