The Production Exchange and Park Theatre kick off the New Year in electrifying fashion with the World Premiere of On The Ropes, one of the most extraordinary and emotionally rousing true stories staged in Park200 at Park Theatre.
The play about Black British boxer Vernon Vanriel has been co-written by the remarkable protagonist himself, together with sporting playwright Dougie Blaxland and is directed by Anastasia Osei-Kuffour.
This musical drama, staged in a boxing ring, unfolds in 12 ‘metaphorical’ rounds featuring key moments in Vernon’s life. He came to Britain aged six with his family as part of the Windrush Generation and quickly rose to prominence as one of the UK’s most charismatic and influential Black British boxers of the 70s and 80s.
In 2005, having lived in North London for 43 years, Vernon found himself trapped in Jamaica; homeless, penniless and denied access to medical care for a heart condition. What followed was a prolonged fight with the British Home Office for his right to citizenship.
Pulsating with the rhythmic energies of blues, reggae and boxing, On The Ropes is a celebration of how courage, dignity and a fighting spirit can triumph over prejudice and injustice. Mensah Bediako (RSC, National Theatre, Respect: The Aretha Franklin Songbook Tour, The Bodyguard Tour, Young Vic) stars as Vernon with Ashley D Gale (RSC, Theatre Royal Windsor, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin Tour), and Amber James (Leeds Playhouse, Almeida, Regent’s Park Theatre) as multi-rolling chorus members.
Vernon Vanriel says this play is a dream come true. He adds: “After 13 long years of being voiceless and invisible the writing and staging of On The Ropes has given me the opportunity to be acknowledged and heard. Having my story told in my own words will mark the final step in my homecoming.” While co-writer Dougie Blaxland adds: “Vernon’s story is the ultimate embodiment of courage and endurance, and it has been a privilege to work with him as co-writer to bring his story to the stage. He has been the alpha and omega of the creative process as both the inspirational source and the editor.”
On The Ropes is a Production Exchange co-production with Park Theatre, supported by Arts Council England, The Leche Trust, The Joyce Fletcher Charitable Trust and The Royal Victoria Hall Foundation.
On The Ropes is at Park Theatre 6 January – 4 February 2023