Reviews NationalNottingham Published 16 June 2019

Review: One Night in Miami at Nottingham Playhouse

7-22 June, then touring

‘What about the Struggle’: Naomi Obeng writes a poetic response to Kemp Powers’ imagined account of the meeting of Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke.

Naomi Obeng
Conor Glean, Miles Yekinni, Matt Henry, and Christopher Colquhoun in One Night in Miami at Nottingham Playhouse. Design, Grace Smart; lighting design, Ciarán Cunningham. Photo: Richard Hubert Smith.

Conor Glean, Miles Yekinni, Matt Henry, and Christopher Colquhoun in One Night in Miami at Nottingham Playhouse. Design, Grace Smart; lighting design, Ciarán Cunningham. Photo: Richard Hubert Smith.


On the 25th of February 1964, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, Cassius Clay and Jim Brown met in a hotel room in Miami.

Single corner lamp.
Two men waiting on the balcony for us to take our seats
Scrub grass reminds me of a dream I had
What kind of hotel room has a kitchen
I’m all about the deets
Lightly curving single palm breaks the parallel lines
Stunning set. Really.
“Really? No TV? Man!”

“You get used to it.
That’s the problem.”
The Energy of Cassius Clay reenacting his win.
Punches and dodges with stage-lights flying in.
The arrogance of the man,
Is endearing?
He is the Greatest, after all.

Two of these men will be shot dead before they’re 40.
Two of these men will be shot dead.

Shit party, tbh.
Just 4 dudes in a hotel room.
Guards outside.
Dubious why they’re there.
Hampton House in Overtown (in case you were wondering)

“We can’t just go out and declare the white man the devil”
Lines pop. They shine. They shimmer.
They rise up high into that beautiful pink blue rectangle of sky.
Turns Pink to Purple.
Purple to Blue.
Blue to Black.

“’Cause I’m a pushy motherfucker”
Wish I was this witty.
(lines seductively lie on my cloudy mind the next morning)
Different levels of fame in this room and the politics of it.
A responsibility. To who?
“It’s a lot easier on my knees”
Context is everything.
Jim Brown is an NFL player moving into movies because (see above)
Pussy is, apparently, enough of a want to sustain two characters for a whole play.
Noted.
Both married though.
Awkward.
There’s much more besides.
But idk what.
Because they never say.
Pore over wiki later.
Later isn’t for now.
Except when it is.

Two of these men will be shot dead before they’re 40.
One this year.
One the next.

The Black Beverly Hills
When plays talk about segregation it annoys me
When the audience gasp
Or tut lightly
I don’t know why
I do know why
But I don’t know if it’s helpful to share

Actors immersed.
Characters swirl in ideas.
They’re firing line after a line.
But what are they feeling?

Window becomes a giant cross.
Audience becomes congregation.
Religion is soaked into the corners of this play.
The kind of background that’s foreground because it powers every decision
Every clash of minds.

Sam sings.
Audience cheers and claps.
Is this a musical now?
What about the Struggle?
The revolution.
The threat of death from the Nation of Islam?

Thoughtless violence looks thoughtless until you think about it
“Wow Sam, your music is deep”
Ofc I vibe with Malcolm X.
He’s a sarcastic mofo and he’s not wrong
“Malcolm, would you please have some more ice cream”
How to undermine.
The immediate need.
The vanilla ice cream.
What about the Struggle.
The revolution.
The threat of death from the Nation of Islam.

They’re pushing each other an awful lot.
Maybe that’s why they’re friends.
We must challenge each other.
Else they’ll pull us apart.

“I can handle the bullshit when it’s in my face”
Bob Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind inspires
Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come
Plausible?
Sam’s done.
He steps out of the fourth wall
It’s real jarring
There is a door…
He didn’t use the door.

“We’re not anyone’s weapons Malcolm.”

One Night in Miami runs at Nottingham Playhouse until 22nd June, before touring to Bristol Old Vic and HOME, Manchester. More information here.

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Naomi Obeng

Naomi Obeng is an East Midlands based writer and arts journalist.

Review: One Night in Miami at Nottingham Playhouse Show Info


Directed by Matthew Xia

Written by Kemp Powers

Cast includes Matt Henry, Christopher Colquhoun, Conor Glean, Miles Yekinni, André Squire, Oseloka Obi

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