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Arinzé Kene in One Night In Miami by Kemp Powers

Arinze Kene
Arinze Kene – Credit: Wolf Marloh

One Night In Miami is at the Donmar from 6th October to 3rd December 2016.

The world would come to know him as Muhammad Ali, but on 25th February 1964, a 22-year old Cassius Clay celebrated his world heavyweight title not by hitting the town, but in a hotel room with his three closest friends: activist Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke and American football star Jim Brown.

Directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, the cast includes David Ajala, Francois Battiste, Sope Dirisu, Arinzé Kene, Dwane Walcott and Josh Williams.

Arinzé Kene recently took time out to answer a few questions about the production:

Q: You have a busy few weeks at the Donmar, playing the role of Sam Cooke in One Night In Miami , what can you tell us about the storyline? What is at the heart of it?
ArinzéAt the heart of the play, we have Sam Cooke and Malcolm X fighting over Muhammad Ali’s soul. It’s where most of the drama in the play stems from. Ali was good friends with both Sam and Malcolm, but Sam and Malcolm shared very different life views. Sam was more about his business, and Malcolm was more politically driven. Ali is in the middle, undecided.

Q: How have you got into the story?
ArinzéOne way I got into the story was by reading up on what it was like to live in the 60s. Malcolm X’s biography was a brilliant source, so were the Ali documentaries. Delving into the life of Sam Cooke was also informative and lent itself to my performance.

Q: How does Sam Cooke fit into the storyline?
Arinzé: The night Muhammad Ali beat Sonny Liston, becoming the heavyweight champion of the world, he called out for one man to be let into the ring, and that man was none other than the King of Soul, Sam Cooke. One Night In Miami follows what happened that night after the fight. Sam has noticed a change in Ali. It’s a change that has come from Malcolm’s influence, and Sam doesn’t like it – things come to head as the night wears on.

Q: Do you get to sing any of Sam Cooke’s iconic songs?
ArinzéOh yes. In fact, I’m lucky enough to sing my favourite Sam Cooke song… ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’.

Q: Why should everyone get along to see One Night In Miami?
ArinzéIt’s a beautiful play. The subject matter is still relevant. It’s written and directed with care, love, and precision. The performances are superb. And you will be moved. What do you have to lose?

Questions by Neil Cheesman

To the outside world, they were American icons. But in that hotel room, here were four men who understood each other and their moment in history in a way that no one else could. With the Civil Rights movement stirring outside, and the melody of ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ hanging in the air, these men would emerge from that room ready to define a new world.

Kwame Kwei-Armah returns to the UK to direct Kemp Powers’ fictional account of a real night, taking us to the heart of a pivotal moment in the history of a nation.

CAST: David Ajala, Francois Battiste, Sope Dirisu, Arinzé Kene, Dwane Walcott and Josh Williams.

Director – Kwame Kwei-Armah
Designer – Robert Jones
Lighting Designer – Oliver Fenwick
Sound Designer – John Leonard
Video Designer – Duncan McLean

This production is generously supported by Clive and Sally Sherling.

6th October 2016 – 3rd December 2016


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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