One Night in Miami Review

Bristol Old Vic – until 29 June 2019

Review by Nicky Wyatt


What do a Boxing world champion, a singer songwriter/producer an Nfl player come actor and a leader of the Nation of Islam party have in common?

It would seem an awful lot. These four Black men were not only great friends they all shared a passion for what they believed in and were all at the top of their respective games when One Night in Miami happened.

A one bedded room at the Hampton House Motel was the venue for the get together and celebration on that February night in 1964. The night that Cassius Clay (Conor Clean) became the world boxing champion. He was watched and supported by his 3 good friends Sam Cooke (Matt Henry), Malcolm X (Christopher Colquhoun) and Jim Brown (Miles Yekinni).

The set designed by Grace Smart is really clever, we particularly liked the palm tree. Clever lighting by Ciaran Cunningham takes you through the night

First to arrive is the immensely talented Sam Cooke (Matt Henry) he is none to impressed with the low level room on first glance, he sits playing his guitar waiting for the others to arrive, closely watched by security men Jamaal (Oseloka Obi) and Kareem (Andre Squire)

Jamaal is young , wants to please and funny . Whereas Kareem is very focused and more sombre throughout. These two guys are on stage throughout , just waiting and watching and then they jump in with perfect timing and attitude.

As the new world champion arrives along with his friends the excitement of his win carries as he relives it blow by blow. Conor is good as Cassius Clay his fast words and feet mirror the legend. Throughout the celebrations Malcom (Christopher) is carrying out security checks, is this paranoia or is he danger?

Sam and Jim (Miles) want to party properly but there are no girls or booze only Vanilla ice cream. Why is this? Because the very next day Cassius Clay will become a brother of Islam and become Muhammed Ali therefore giving up alcohol and women. It seemed a good idea until that moment he won the fight against Sony Liston now he is the champ he is not so sure.

As the evening unfolds the talk gets heated as Malcom berates his friends for playing to the white mans tune and not following their beliefs and heritage. It wasn’t true they all played their own game and were all winners in their fields. The audience around me was very mixed and diverse cultures, there were many voices agreeing and saying yes, huh huh etc which makes me believe that although the play is set in 1964 the underlying message that ‘Something’s got to change’ is still apt and true.

The NFL giant Jim(Miles) was the peacemaker throughout , who was working it his own way. For me the star of the show is Sam (Matt) his voice is absolutely superb , anyone sitting in the second row is in for a real treat!

Matthew Xia Director has done a brilliant job of Kemp Powers play it is undoubtedly the best theatre I have seen in a long time.