I went to see A Night in Miami on Saturday night at the Donmar Warehouse, through their Young + Free initiative for under 25s, providing 25% of their tickets for free. A Night in Miami, follows a night in a motel in Miami, where Muhammad Ali, Malcom X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown had convened. When the world saw them as icons, in this play they were just four friends, celebrating the world heavyweight champion.
With the show lasting an hour and a half, without an interval, or set changes, it is not surprising that the show’s success lies within the tension held. Walking into the space, you can already hear cicadas, and planes rumbling overhead, immediately setting the scene. The garish hotel set, oddly spacious, however reminisce of the 60s. The set, had a little cove where, most likely due to where I was sitting, meant the sound was absorbed and difficult to understand. But hey, when the tickets are free, who can complain?
With the show set in the height of the Civil Rights movement, the tension in the movement, and within the black community indeed made the show. It was held throughout the performance in the audience and on stage. Every time the tension built, it either bubbled over or there was a break, in the form of the music of Sam Cooke, or a snappy one liner. Creating the perfect tone for the show. This was all aided by the soundscape and the brilliant chemistry between the four actors. The involvement of the audience was a welcome break in the tension, adding electricity in the air, and a humour to the piece, that was different to the repeated one liners. It was a very realistic and poignant glimpse into the civil rights movement. Sope Dirisu, captured the youthful Muhammad Ali, with a playful and spirited energy. Arinzé Kene, Sam Cooke, had a brilliant voice, and his rendition of A Change is Gonna Come, with footage portraying protests from the 60s, all the way to the Black Lives Matter Movement in Missouri, on the cyclorama behind, was a chilling moment – emphasising how much of a problem equality still is. The performance felt far longer than ninety minutes, I think showing the weight of the issues addressed, with an ending flooded with finality.
Overall a very important, topical and political performance, to be performed right now, brimming with chilling images, conceived by the directors and actors. Also an enjoyable play to watch. I loved the script, and ended up buying a copy. I would highly recommend. It is showing at the Donmar until the 3rd of December.