Cast announced for The Royale, Bush Theatre

Published: Monday, February 2, 2015 1:10 PM
Nicholas Pinnock Nicholas Pinnock

Nicholas Pinnock (Top Boy, Fortitude) will star as Jay Jackson, the first black heavyweight champion of the world, in The Royale, written by Marco Ramirez (Orange is the New Black), directed by Madani Younis (artistic director of the Bush Theatre), and loosely based on the true story of the boxer Jack Johnson.

Also joining the cast will be Frances Ashman and Clint Dyer, who last appeared together at the Bush Theatre in 2014 in Perseverance Drive, also directed by Madani Younis.

Scripted in 12 rounds by Orange is the New Black writer Marco Ramirez, this play looks at the transcendence of sporting heroes as cultural icons of our time.

The production will be designed by Jaimie Todd, with movement by Jack Murphy and lighting by James Whiteside.

Jay ‘The Sport’ Jackson dreams of being the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. But it’s 1905, and in the racially segregated world of boxing, his chances are as good as knocked out. When a crooked boxing promoter hatches a plan for ‘the fight of the century’, The Sport just might land a place in the ring with the reigning white heavyweight champion.

Through the sights and sounds of the early 20th century boxing circuit, The Royale examines society’s relationship with our present-day cultural heroes and the responsibilities that are thrust upon them when they find themselves outside of the ropes.

The Royale is loosely based on the real-life story of Jack Johnson, whose story is one of great talent and triumph, but also racism and injustice. Despite Johnson being one of the greatest fighters who had ever lived, one newspaper wrote at the time of his first title fight: "If the black man wins, thousands and thousands of his ignorant brothers will misinterpret his victory as justifying claims to much more than mere physical equality with their white neighbors."

Speaking at the launch of the Bush Theatre’s 2015 season, Madani Younis said:

“Following in the tradition of Ayad Akhtar’s ‘Disgraced’, and Jackie Sibblies Drury’s ‘We Are Proud to Present…’, I am delighted to bring The Royaleto UK audiences, an ambitious play from a new and as yet unheard American voice. I’m fascinated by the tale of a sporting hero who transcends his industry and becomes a major symbol in wider culture. Amir Khan, Janelle Monáe, Jay-Z: to me they are all Jay Jackson. I think the play will really speak to a UK audience when we think of today’s cultural heroes and the responsibilities that are thrust upon them.’

Nicholas Pinnock is a British theatre, television and film actor that has appeared in programmes such as the Channel 4′s award-winning drama, Top Boy. Most recently he was seen in the role of Dr Evan Farleigh in ITV’s The Ice Cream Girls. Later this month will see Nicholas star in one of the lead roles in Sky’s upcoming show Fortitude, alongside Stanley Tucci, Sofie Grabol, Christopher Eccleston and Michael Gambon. February will see Nicholas star in the sequel to Monsters, in Monsters: Dark Continent.

Frances Ashman’s previous theatre credits include Hopelessly Devoted (Paines Plough) Perseverance Drive (Bush Theatre), This May Hurt A Bit (Out of Joint), People (National Theatre), Bang Bang Bang (Royal Court), Pornography (Birmingham Rep) and several productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company. TV credits include Birds of a Feather, Mayday, The Reckoning and Doctor Who. Other recent work includes The Ones Below (feature film) and Excluded (BBC Radio 4).

Clint Dyer’s previous theatre credits include Perseverance Drive (Bush Theatre), Sus (Young Vic and tour), Michael X (Eclipse / Tabernacle) and Big White Fog (Almeida) as well as roles at the Royal Court, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Shakespeare’s Globe and the Hackney Empire. Film credits include Montana, Arthur Christmas, Unknown, Sus (Winner - Screen Nation Award for Best Actor; Winner – Liege Film Festival Award for Best Actor; Winner – Texas Black Film Festival – Best Actor) and Agora. TV credits include Hope Springs, Fallout and many other roles.

Madani Younis took over as Artistic Director of the Bush Theatre in 2012. For 2013 he programmed the company’s most successful season to date, which saw the theatre play to 99% capacity, and for which the theatre was awarded the Groucho Club Maverick Award 2013. For the Bush Theatre he has previously directed Perseverance Drive and Chalet Lines. Prior to his appointment at the Bush, he was Artistic Director of Freedom Studios in Bradford, Yorkshire where his work included the site-specific work, The Mill – City of Dreams. He has also worked nationally and internationally as a theatre director, writer and practitioner. Whilst at Freedom Studios he collaborated with the Bush Theatre through workshops culminating in Freedom’s two week residency in 2010 at the theatre. He was previously Director of Red Ladder Theatre Company’s Asian Theatre School. He originally trained in film, and his debut short film Ellabellapumpanella, commissioned by the UK Film Council, was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2007. He was the recipient of the Decibel Award at the South Bank Awards show in 2006.

Info: The Royale is at the Bush Theatre from 13 March to 18 April 2015.

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