Critic's Circle Review One Night in Miami

One Night in Miami…

This play was brilliant. From the incredible singing of Sam Cooke/Matt Henry to the humor of the characters Cassius Clay and Jim Brown to the powerful messages from Malcolm X and the entirety of the storyline itself it was brilliant.

I am ashamed to say that before this play I knew little about the 4 key characters other than that Mohammad Ali was a great boxer and Malcolm X was a very important historical figure. I did not know Sam Cooke’s name only his song “a change is gonna come” and I knew nothing of Jim Brown. After this play I feel a lot more educated; it taught me more about the “struggle” and gave new perspectives and insights into the feelings of the time. This play also sparked my curiosity into researching more about this time in history and I believe it has proved to be not only extremely comical but educational too.

My favorite part of the play was when Sam Cooke came into the audience. I love a bit of audience participation and the use of it in this case was pure genius. At one point he sat on this lady’s knee and I lost it- , the lady’s boyfriend’s disgruntled face and Cassius and Jim’s dancing on stage was quite frankly amazing and really made me laugh. It was one of the key points of the play I relayed to my mum and anyone who would listen the next day telling of Matt Henrys wonderful voice (seriously wow) and the big dramatic lights of this particular scene- that lit up not only the stage but the audience too. I just loved it.
The set itself was also really cool. By not being too dramatic, it allowed you to focus on the cast and their actions adding rather than detracting from the acting itself. The little touches too made the whole play more effective whether that be with the little pink and turquoise bathroom or the sky changing from sunset to night every tiny bit added another layer of reality to the play.

“One Night In Miami” is a must see on all accounts; serious and comical all in one it educates and teaches you things without you even realizing it. I would recommend it to anyone, you can’t go wrong with this play. I promise that if you do get the chance to see it you will only gain, never lose much like Mohammad Ali himself.

Annabelle Leivers

One Night in Miami centres on a real meeting of Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Sam Cook and Jim Brown. Cassius Clay (soon to be Mohammed Ali) is crowned the new heavyweight champion of the world but in the background, a battle for equality and justice rages. His own turmoil over converting to Islam is aided and discouraged by his three friends.

First of all, the characters were very interesting. They were very human. Cassius was funny and surprisingly endearing. His lines about how pretty he is made me crack up and showed a different side to the icon everyone knew. His reaction to his success is amusing and relatable. Sam Cook was incredible and the dream sequence of him singing was amazing. He managed to pull off charisma and sensitivity in a way that made him incredibly likeable but also my personal favourite to root for. I didn’t find Jim Brown particularly likeable but did appreciate his relationship with all three men. I wasn’t particularly keen on Malcolm X either but I got the general impression you weren’t supposed to. On one hand, he came across as very troubled but also annoyingly self-righteous and indecisive. One moment, he’s encouraging Cassius to convert but also fears the power of the Islamic Nation.

The general plot flowed and even the dream sequences didn’t feel out of place. It is an interesting idea, executed incredibly well. The dialogue was very true to each character and the relationships between the men were carried out very well. You truly got a sense of what that meeting would have been like. However, I felt sometimes there was far too much arguing. It felt like any break between the arguing was tense and occasionally, they jumped from argument to argument which became very confusing. Also, the dialogue was sometimes quite repetitive, with particularly reference to the vanilla ice cream bit.
The setting was incredibly simple but true to where it was supposed to be. The single palm tree in the background to denote Miami grounded the play. The minimalistic but bright hotel room further brought it home to us that these men were human before they were in/famous. However, one question I did keep wondering was why these four famous men were meeting in a hotel room with so little grandeur.

In conclusion, One Night in Miami was an interesting tale of justice, fame and conflict, where the characters were intriguing, the plot was smooth and the setting supported both character and plot. We truly got a taste of the world and the characters and that fateful night.

Tabitha Gresty

One Night in Miami… but it felt like much longer

“One Night in Miami” is a hypothetical account of a real night in which four prominent, black American figures spend an evening in a motel room and the play explores possible conversations and actions which may have taken place. Written by Kemp Powers and directed by Matthew Xia, it is an unusual play which gives insight into the thoughts of the boxing champion Cassius Clay, the influential person of the a Nation of Islam Malcolm X, soul singer Sam Cooke and NFL footballer Jim Brown on the 25th February 1964, just after Clay has become world champion. It has both comedic aspects and an underlying sense of unease.
My personal experience of the play was mixed as I thoroughly enjoyed some aspects of the production and felt uninterested in other moments. Although the simplistic set used by Nottingham Playhouse permitted the audience to dwell on the deeper message and empathise with the struggles that these people, as black males in America in the 1960s, faced due to white supremacy, it ultimately resulted in a lack of pace and the play became monotonous to a degree as the actors stayed in one place. The use of Matt Henry’s (who played Sam Cooke) exquisite vocals provided light relief for the audience as it gave a shift in mood, which had previously been conveyed through the occasional witty comment from the characters. The acting itself was of a very high standard and the actors conveyed a potent feeling of camaraderie, both due to their chemistry onstage and the one room setting. The word I would use to describe this show would be “satisfactory” as I felt the focus shift from the experiences of one character to the next was exciting and yet I encountered a bathos throughout as the tension that was present did not build but plateaued. The play did ignite a sense of curiosity in me in regards to the lives of the four main characters and the impact that they actually had on the lives of others ergo from a historical perspective it was highly informative. The most poignant actor for me was Christopher Colquhoun (who played Malcolm X) as his gentle tone and relaxed stance juxtaposed his real attitudes and so he was exceptional at portraying a conflicted character and his sombre stage presence captivated the audience; I look forward to seeing more performances from him.

Francesca Lees

One Night In Miami: An insightful glimpse into a divided society

One Night in Miami is a speculative play where four significant icons of the civil rights movement in America spend a night together and the play accounts for what might have been discussed during the night Cassius Clay (later known as Muhammad Ali) had just become the heavyweight boxing champion. The play gives an important perspective into the racial divide at the time and each character’s unique take on how to react to such injustice. This gives an interesting insight into the time period you otherwise couldn’t get.

However, what threw me off about this play is how quickly characters could transform from convivial and unsettlingly energetic, to explosively angry, in a way I couldn’t help but feel was overly dramatized and didn’t mesh well with their larger than life characters.
On its own however this wasn’t what detracted from my enjoyment of the play. What really did that was how the sets aesthetic would change during emotionally heightened moments. Examples of this include Sam Cooke’s rendition of his song ‘A Change Is Gonna Come ‘and when Cassius Clay described how he won the championship. The lighting and the showmanship starkly contrasted the grave tone the performance set when the characters recounted their experiences of being famous whilst simultaneously an ethnic minority during a time of such racial division.

One Night in Miami is for many an enjoyable play, I could hear people laughing at the way the characters interacted with each other, the singing was excellent and it was deserving of its standing ovation. I cannot unwaveringly recommend this play and despite me believing the performance has a relatively broad appeal and is by no means bad, it did not appeal to my own disposition.
Overall I believe this play is likely to appeal to you if you are interested in the time period as the interaction between four such influential figures is very engaging and well performed. Despite my reservations about how the singing fits with the tone of the performance, it is incredibly well done.
In summery I believe this play gives an extremely insightful look into the civil rights movements with some incredibly interesting characters at the time and there is definitely a lot to like.

Alex Longhurst

One Night in Miami written by Kemp Powers and directed by Mathew Xia was a truly stunning piece. As I walked into the theatre, I could tell that there was going to be something good about this performance. The set was a small 1960s motel room with lots of colour and two body guards standing outside. Throughout the piece this set didn’t change but that seemed to work with it.

The play started with the two body guards talking to each other. We were soon introduced to the other characters (various famous historical figures) who were all struggling to find their voice and stand up for what they believed in to support the fight against racial inequality. Malcom X, played by Christopher Colquhoun, was defiantly my favourite character. I loved the calm air he always seemed to have about him as well as his passion for getting the best out of people. I also liked that he could have a joke but knew when it had gone to far. All the other characters (Sam Cooke, Jim Brown, Cassius Clay and the two body guards) were also portrayed well however I did find that Cassius Clay was quite full of himself which annoyed me at certain points. Overall, I think they worked really well together, had a bit of a laugh and a joke as well as confronting some serious issues.

Throughout the show there was use of music, mainly through Sam Cooke (portrayed by Matt Henry). His singing voice was fantastic and when he suddenly broke into song at the end of the first half it was truly magical. The big stage lights suddenly appeared, and Sam burst out into a wonderful song, showing off his wonderful pure voice. He thrilled the audience as he jumped of the stage and started singing to them. It was one of those moments which an audience will never forget. The way the music was worked into this piece was stunning and it really brought it together.
Overall, I found one night in Miami a great show which captivated me by its drama, iconic music, politics and humour. I think that it really was fun to watch as well as it delivering a powerful message -to stand up for what you believe in which as well as being relevant in the 1960s is relevant now. Probably one of the best shows I have seen at the playhouse. Truly stunning!

Naomi Thomas

One night in Miami review

One night in Miami was a play based on a real life story about cassias clay, later known as Mohammed Ali. The story included a simple set but it was very effective. The play as naturalistic and in real time meaning the simple hotel room set added to the detail. The set was very far forward making the audience feel involved, as if they were in the hotel room. The set consisted of a little bathroom area, an outside porch and then room itself. The bodyguards were always outside of the door representing the status of the hotel occupants.

My favourite character was the younger, less experienced body guard. He was very funny and relatable which I enjoy. He was hilarious and every time he came into the main scene he made everyone laugh. The focus was impeccable during the main scene as he was stood ‘outside’ the hotel room and stood still and serious. He was like a light when he came into the hotel room, a switch flipped. As soon as he entered the door he was engaged.
I enjoyed when Sam Cook came into the audience, sitting on some people as he sang to them. His voice was so smooth and flawless and he added 110% character into it which made us love him. He had a very camp walk which made the audience laugh and smile at him.
Overall I really enjoyed the performance. The only improvement I could give is in the first little bit of acting, where the boys all come in, they need to engage more because the chemistry was quite flat and uninteresting for the audience members to watch. However on a whole I really enjoyed it.

Hanna Fletcher

Was it a night in Miami to remember?

On Tuesday 11th June, I saw One Night in Miami at the Nottingham Playhouse. The show (directed by Matthew Xia) was highly comedic with great enthusiasm from the actors. Xia having previously directed Shebeen at the Playhouse is Associate Artist at the theatre. The Director is greatly involved in multiple theatres across the country and is founding member of the charity project “Act for Change”. I thought his take on the production was very interesting and having not seen any previous shows directed by Xia, I rather enjoyed his style.

The use of a full male cast was very interesting especially with the involvement of Nottingham born, André Squire. Squire’s use of facial expressions were performed well and I think he did the Nottingham blood proud. The use of Squire playing Kareem encourages younger generations to be involved with acting and shows there is a future for the younger generation from Nottingham in Theatre.

I thought the show had a lot of action in it making the plot sometimes quite confusing for the audience, it was hard to understand the plot line as the actors were very much all on and all off. As a show, I do think it is less of a stage performance and more a film as I feel as if the script was more TV friendly and so was the set. The set seemed as if it was a film set on stage rather than it having the unique characteristics that a play would have.
Overall, I thought the plot line was interesting when thinking about why Muhammad Ali changed his name and the sort of conversations the four men would have had inside the motel room. However, I do think it is more suited as a screen play rather than a stage but yet again a very good try for the Playhouse.

Hannah Spencer

Acting Justice for Their Injustices

The year is 1964. America is still recovering from the aftershock of John F Kennedy’s assassination, plans to build the World Trade Centre have just been announced, and The Beatles have vaulted to their first #1 spot on the U.S. singles charts. However, on this specific night, Tuesday the 25th of February, another momentous event has just occurred – the then-named Cassius Clay has been crowned heavyweight boxing champion of the world. As anyone would expect, he celebrates with three of his closest friends – but when those friends are Sam Cooke, one of soul’s all-time greats, Jim Brown, a NFL record breaker, and Malcolm X, an influential leader of the Nation of Islam, and their conversation is confined to a hotel room in Miami Beach, Florida, one can only dream of being a fly on the wall. ‘One Night in Miami’ provides us with this opportunity, as we find ourselves witness to one of the most speculative evenings, at a turning point in the lives of all four of these civil-rights icons. Shortly afterwards, Cassius Clay will become Muhammad Ali. A year later, two of these men will be dead, having been shot and killed. But for this night, they are four friends, perhaps the only ones to truly understand each other, in a world filled with discrimination and division.

Walking into the theatre, I was instantly struck by the subtly expressive set, with the wide skylight, silhouetted palm tree, and vivid sunset all stretching this single hotel room into much more of a landscape than an enclosed space. Whilst certainly not the most visually impressive, it undoubtable injected an initial burst of character into the play and prevented it from the claustrophobic air I had resolved myself to expecting from the use of a fixed setting. This, combined with striking, period-appropriate clothing, was successful in establishing the crucial and distinct 1960s America narrative.

I would not make any alterations to the cast. The consistency of their portrayals made it easy to feel engaged in their conversations and, in my mind’s eye, I now cannot imagine associating any other actors’ faces with these iconic names. Despite this, I sometimes struggled with the dynamics of the four men, failing to understand how or why Malcolm X was there, and failing to find the camaraderie I desperately searched for underneath his hostility. To spend such a notable evening together, alone in each other’s company, is a strong and special indication, but so often it was easy to forget that they were there by choice and not convenience. If they had simply been waiting for a cab to pick them up, I wouldn’t have been surprised!

On a more positive note, I feel truly honoured to have experienced the enthralling vocals of Matt Henry, playing Sam Cooke. As he sang, it seems impossible to have not felt transported back in time and, by the end of the play, I wholeheartedly supported Malcolm X in his overbearing belief that Sam had the most powerful platform for change of all of them. Sitting there, listening to those soulful tones wash over and through me, how could I not?

As the play progressed, it was poignant to realise that the man most aggressively endeavouring for freedom, the most opposed to being controlled, was actually the one with little voice of his own left, the least free of them all. “We’re not anyone’s weapons, Malcolm. We’re men!” was not only a stand out line but, for me, was representative of the play as a whole. Exposing the fourth wall of the hotel room and allowing us to step inside, these trailblazers, these iconic figures, and as many considered at the time, weapons, were just men, three-dimensional people like the rest of us.

Mel Malkin