Nicholas Pinnock (Top Boy, Fortitude) will star as Jay Jackson, the first black heavyweight champion of the world, in The Royale at London’s Bush Theatre next month.
Written by Marco Ramirez (Orange is the New Black), and directed by Madani Younis, artistic director of the Bush Theatre, the Royale is 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.
Scripted in 12 rounds by Marco Ramirez, the play looks at the transcendence of sporting heroes as cultural icons of our time.
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: “I am delighted to bring The Royale to 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 and he stars in Sky Atlantic’s Arctic crime thriller Fortitude.
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 roles at the Royal Court, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Shakespeare’s Globe and the Hackney Empire.
The Royale will run at the Bush Theatre from March 13 – April 18.