We take a look at what critics have been saying about the World Premiere of Vernon Vanriel and Dougie Blaxland’s play.

(c)Steve Gregson

WhatsOnStage: *** “Bediako manages the difficult task of portraying the vast span of Vernon’s life, from teenager to 60-something. His muscular build means he convinces as a champion boxer, while he also captures his extreme vulnerability. He is ably supported by Amber James and Ashley D Gayle, who play a range of characters from family members and managers to coldly bureaucratic immigration officials. There’s palpable passion in all three performances.”

Evening Standard: *** “As an illustration of the Orwellian callousness of previous (and current) UK governments it’s timely and shocking.”

The Reviews Hub: **** “On the Ropes tells an important true story and wraps it in a parcel of rich entertainment. Maybe the show is not entirely a knockout, but it certainly packs a heavy punch.”

Everything Theatre: **** “This is a performance about being human and arbitrary injustice that is fiercely relevant today. Co-written by Vanriel himself on returning from his self-termed banishment, it is as much a howl of defiance and will to survive as it is an account of the appalling treatment suffered by the Windrush generation.”

Time Out: *** “It is an unquestionably powerful drama, not least because it’s true. But stuffing someone’s whole life into two-and-a-half hours doesn’t always work. There is not enough scope to get to know the secondary characters in Vanriel’s life with enough detail or heart. The script often feels like it’s reeling off a selection of dates and happenings, rather than giving us engaging theatre.”

Lou Reviews: **** “On The Ropes is innovative, frustrating, emotional, and celebratory. In all, an interesting night out.”

Islington Gazette: ***** “It movingly mixes poetry, dance, drama, brilliant live Reggae and Blues music that demands the audience join in, and some wonderfully raw humour.”

Broadway World: *** “There’s too much going on in On the Ropes, both in terms of the story and how its told. But it’s really very meaningful that Vanriel’s story of being silenced and ignored for years on end, has now found its way to the stage. Finally, people are listening to him… and what a story he has to tell.”

Musical Theatre Review: **** “Though it is difficult to appreciate the full scale of the adversity Vanriel has had to face, On the Ropes does an admirable job of giving us a glimpse into how his life has been made so unnecessarily painful. Even so, the most heart-breaking moment of the show is not specific to Vanriel, but is in the finale’s repeated use of the number 57,000. Fifty seven thousand members of the “Windrush Generation” at risk of having their lives torn apart.”

The Stage: *** “Absorbing and infuriating”

British Theatre Guide: “The rather long first half would benefit from a little judicious trimming, the second half could do with a little more details, but with vibrant performances from all three actors, this is a gripping presentation that speaks not just for Vanriel but for the mistreatment of so many of the Windrush generation.”

The Guardian: *** “Ultimately, this is an important story to see on stage but one that might have been better enacted in shorter, punchier rounds.”

On the Ropes continues to play at the Park Theatre until the 4th February.


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