Rumble In The Jungle Rematch – Review
I’m outside Dock X in London’s Canada Water, decked out like I’ve just stepped off the set of “Saturday Night Fever”—flowery shirt, gold glitter, and a chest forest that’s been 30 years in the making.
The atmosphere is electric. While I’ve never been a boxing aficionado, immersive theatre is my favourite kind of entertainment!
The creative minds at Rematch Live, who previously brought to life the Wimbledon showdown between Borg and McEnroe, have now turned their attention to the world of boxing. They’ve recreated the iconic 1974 match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, and the result is nothing short of spectacular.
The moment we step inside, it’s like we’ve been transported to Zaire in 1974. African music fills the air, dancers in traditional attire move to the rhythm, and the aroma of Congolese street food wafts through the venue. Our guides for this journey are four vibrant storytellers, dressed in eye-catching African clothing, who add layers of context and history to the unfolding drama.
As we’re soaking in the atmosphere, the first person that grabs my attention is David Frost from the BBC, portrayed by Timothy O’Hara. Dressed in a blue suit and sporting those iconic sideburns, he’s interviewing audience members about the upcoming match. It’s a BBC broadcast, but with a delightful twist that adds a layer of interactivity to the experience.
My companion and I make our way to the Hotel Kinshasa, a chic space with a piano player setting the mood. We’ve barely settled in with our drinks when Celia Cruz, brought to sensational life by Juanita Euka, takes the stage. She belts out a Miriam Makeba song, and the room is instantly captivated. Celia has the crowd going, and the atmosphere in the hotel is electric! But the musical journey doesn’t end there; later in the night, a full-blown music festival erupts on a central stage, featuring not just Celia Cruz but also James Brown, portrayed by Guy Kelton-Jones, and Miriam Makeba, played by Anelisa Lamola. The trio sets the crowd on fire, and the atmosphere is electric!
Now, let’s delve into the training sessions. I had the chance to see Kimane Juneau embody Muhammad Ali and Joshua C. Jackson take on the role of George Foreman. Juneau’s Ali was a revelation—his charisma, footwork, and trash talk were spot-on. He even threw in Ali’s iconic line, reminding onlookers that he could ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,’ a catchphrase that has become synonymous with the legendary boxer. On the other side, Jackson’s Foreman was a force of nature, capturing the raw power and intensity of the legendary boxer. It was like watching history unfold before my eyes.
But what really struck me was the attention to detail. From the authentic boxing gear to the meticulously recreated training routines, everything felt real. It was as if we were flies on the wall, witnessing the preparations of these legendary fighters. The authenticity extended to the press conferences, led by Elliot Rodriguez’s larger-than-life Don King. McCallam Connell’s Dick Sadler and Randall Alleyne’s Bundini Brown added layers of authenticity, making the experience feel like a real-life press event.
Finally, the main event: the boxing match. We move to a new space featuring a full-sized boxing ring and take our seats. The atmosphere is electric as we wait. Footage of the original pre-show plays on a giant screen, and David Frost is back, providing pre-show interviews with the likes of Joe Frazier, Don King, and even some local sappeurs. When the fight finally starts, the crowd is chanting “Ali Bomaye!”, and we’re all going crazy as if we don’t already know the outcome. Frost provides commentary throughout, and the fighters really give it their all. It truly felt like anything could happen! By the end, it feels like we’ve been part of something historic, an event to tell your grandchildren about.
In summary, this isn’t just a show; it’s an experience. It’s a celebration of culture, music, and two legendary figures who’ve left an indelible mark on history. As we step into Black History Month, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate. Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime event; it’s a knockout in every sense of the word!
Tickets are on sale now, booking through to Dec 10th.
Words by Nick Barr