On The Ropes ★★★★ Park Theatre | Jan 7 - Feb 4, 2023


On The Ropes chronicles the life of Vernon Vanriel, a British boxer whose boxing career took off in the late 70s and early 80s. The show is a no-holds-barred exposé of his professional and personal life, unflinchingly revealing both its highs and its lows. While the piece is divided into twelve rounds, it really seems to deal with two different bouts. In the first, Vanriel achieves considerable success in the ring, but he ultimately succumbs to his struggles with a corrupt boxing establishment and his own demons. In the second fight, he squares off with the bureaucracy of the Home Office to establish his right to live in Britain. He eventually triumphs in that struggle and becomes emblematic of the abuses perpetrated on the Windrush generation. In telling the boxer's story, the challenge for writers, Vanriel and Dougie Blaxland, is to establish the relationship between these two battles, but unfortunately it feels as if one story is dropped when the other is picked up. The only continuity is Vanriel's fighting spirit, but the history of personal development is lost as the political drama takes over. It almost seems as if we are watching two different plays. However, all of the cast are excellent, and Mensah Bediako does a fine job of channeling Vanriel. He successfully bobs, weaves and dances his way into the audience's heart. Ashley D Gayle, as one half of the Chorus, also does a great job as he takes on a variety of roles in the drama. However, it is his counterpart, Amber James, who delivers the standout performance of the evening. She demonstrates an astounding ability to establish different characters in the blinking of an eye and her singing was a highpoint for us. Indeed, the musical selection works well to underline Vanriel's story and Zahra Mansouri's boxing ring set is used to great effect. Ultimately, this is a production worthy of a boxer known as "The Entertainer."

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Steve Gregson.

Want to save on tickets? See our Tips page.

When, Where, Getting there:

Most Popular

Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons ★★★★ Harold Pinter Theatre | Jan 18 - Mar 18, 2023

Barbara Bleier and Austin Pendleton ★★★ The Pheasantry | January 13 &14, 2023

We'll Always Have Paris ★★★★ The Mill at Sonning | Jan 19 - Mar 11, 2023

George Takei's Allegiance ★★★★ Charing Cross Theatre | Jan 7 - Apr 8, 2023

Two Billion Beats ★★★★ Orange Tree Theatre | Jan 20 - Feb 4, 2023

Newsies ★★★★ Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre | Until April 16, 2023

In the Net ★★ Jermyn Street Theatre | Jan 12 - Feb 4, 2023

The Cher Show ★★★ New Wimbledon Theatre | Jan 31 - Feb 4, 2023

Love Goddess, The Rita Hayworth Musical ★★★ The Cockpit | Nov 18 - Dec 23, 2022

The City Life Magazine | Reviews & Ratings