Boxing and theatre are not natural bed-fellows and there are not many people who would ever think to associate one with the other, but nevertheless, the combination has proven to be a rather successful one in Mike Tyson’s one-man show, Mike Tyson: UNDISPUTED TRUTH. It has proven so successful in fact, that he is heading to our side of the shore to debut the show for a 4-date UK tour next year.
Following its premiere at the MGM in Las Vegas and a subsequent 12-date Broadway run (Longacre Theatre), UNDISPUTED TRUTH is set to launch in London on 21st March 2014, kicking off the tour at the Hammersmith Apollo before moving on to Glasgow (SECC – Clyde Auditorium) and then Manchester (O2 Apollo). Show dates have also been announced for Norway, Denmark and Sweden. Created by Adam Steck, CEO of SPI Entertainment, the show was produced on Broadway by James L. Nederlander and is directed by the acclaimed Spike Lee. Tyson’s wife, Kiki, is credited as script writer for the show.
Legendary boxer ‘Iron Mike’ has courted controversy, both in and out of the ring, throughout his life and UNDISPUTED TRUTH is a rare, personal look inside the life and mind of one of the most feared men ever to wear the heavyweight crown. Tyson spoke of the deeply personal nature of the show, describing it simply as, “my story – I’m giving my all,” before going on to speak of his excitement over the upcoming UK tour, saying: “I’m proud to take the show internationally. I can’t wait to see the European fans at the shows.”
Tyson certainly has a lot of material to work with, just with his boxing career alone. He made history as the first boxer to hold the WBC, WBA and IBF heavyweight titles simultaneously and is still celebrated today as one of the best heavyweight champions of all time. He retired in 2006, after racking up an impressive 48 wins by KO in the 58 professional matches he fought in during the span of his career, and has since been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame. He has had memorable bouts with such world-class boxers as Frank Bruno, Lennox Lewis, Buster Douglas, and of course, Evander Holyfield, in which he was notoriously disqualified for biting off a part of Holyfield’s ear – this defining incident is one such moment of Tyson’s life/career addressed in UNDISPUTED TRUTH, along with many others.
Tyson grew up in neighbourhoods marred by high crime level and was committing petty crimes and getting into trouble for fighting from an early age. He was raised by his mother after his father abandoned the family shortly after he was born, and his mother’s death when he was just 16 led to his boxing manager and trainer, Cus D’Amato becoming his legal guardian. His natural talent for boxing quickly won him attention and less than two years after making his professional debut, he won the WBC heavyweight title and set the record as the youngest heavyweight champion in history. As his star rose however, Tyson’s personal life often overshadowed his accomplishments in the ring. He has famously battled with alcohol and drugs throughout his career and been in trouble with the law on numerous occasions; in 1992, he was convicted of the rape of 18-year-old Desiree Washington and sentenced to 6 years in prison. He has been married 3 times, with allegations of violent abuse surrounding his first marriage, and has 8 children by several different women. In 2009, his 4-year-old daughter Exodus died after a tragic accident in which she became entangled in a treadmill power cord.
In UNDISPUTED TRUTH, Tyson tells his story of all these moments and more, veering from humorous anecdotes to touching sentiment. Critic for The Telegraph, Mark Hughes, reviewed Tyson’s show in New York last year and described it as, “amusingly honest, if at times self-indulgent.” He questioned the accuracy of Tyson’s tales at times, most notably when talking about such people as first-wife Robin Givens, former promoter Don King, and even Desiree Washington, who are, “painted as villains in tales they are likely to recall differently.” I guess that’s what audiences are paying to hear however, these well-known stories from Tyson’s life and career told in his own words, in his own way, in personal, first-hand detail. There have been untold articles about ‘the Baddest Man on the Planet’ in the media, and people are naturally fascinated to hear Tyson give his version of events.
Mike Tyson is not someone you would initially associate with the stage, but since retiring from boxing, he has tentatively entered the world of acting by making cameos in such TV shows as How I Met Your Mother, and most notably, appearing as himself in hit film The Hangover. He has also spoken of a desire to sing and dance in a musical. Most one-man shows typically star well-known figures from the stage – a perfect example would be stage and screen star Hugh Jackman, who I featured in another blog this week in regards to his one-man show Back To Broadway. The success of Tyson’s UNDISPUTED TRUTH proves however, that a stage background is not a prerequisite in the staging of a theatrical show. It was even announced at the TCA press tour this summer that a filmed version is due to be shown on HBO later this year. Director Spike Lee, who appeared at the event with Tyson, called him the, “most honest human being I’ve met in my life,” going on to say that, “most human beings are not going to display the dark parts of themselves, the demons they have to the world. When you see this, he’s out there on this stage, naked, sharing his experience, his ups and downs to the audience.”
Undoubtedly, there will be members of the audience just there to see the legendary boxing champion live in person, but the same is true of many plays and musicals featuring celebrity names. UNDISPUTED TRUTH offers a glimpse into the depths of a man with one hell of a story to tell and promises to be a unique experience for both fans of Tyson and of the theatre.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Thursday 26th September 2013