Theatre Preview: Cornermen, Unity Theatre, Liverpool

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Image Source: Unity Theatre
                Image Source: Unity Theatre

Written By: Mark Armstrong

Cornermen, the hit show by Oli Forsyth and award-winning new writing company Smoke & Oakum Theatre, arrives in Liverpool on March 13 as part of its national tour. This high-octane, knockout of a story marks the company’s first tour and follows on from the huge success of Happy Dave and Kings.

The story follows Mickey and his team of cornermen, who never seem to have much luck in the boxing world. The fighters they manage always end up losing and, after a disastrous last outing, no one wants to work with them. Until, that is, they sign Sid Sparks, a young boxer whose fast hands and winning ways catapult them into a world of success they’ve never known. However, you can’t win all the time, and soon Mickey must chose between the life he’s enjoying and the well-being of his young charge.

After opening at the Old Red Lion Theatre in London, Cornermen went on to play all over the country, running at the Edinburgh Fringe, Brighton Festival and the infamous VAULT Festival in London, where it was published by Nick Hern Books and described in The Stage as “a right-hook out of nowhere, a real knockout.”

Smoke & Oakum Theatre was founded by Oli Forsyth as a new writing company in 2013. Since then, they have produced six shows that have played to thousands of people at venues all over the UK, with four of the plays having been published and bought by drama schools and companies across the country. Smoke & Oakum shows cover a range of topics, from homelessness to rave culture, and always have the same mix of urgency and crackling dialogue that led New Diorama Theatre Artistic Director David Byrne to label them “One of the best new companies around”.

For this tour of Cornermen, Smoke & Oakum will be partnering with Red Ladder Theatre and New Diorama Theatre.

As well as the national tour of Cornermen, Smoke & Oakum has just finished a three-week run of its award-winning show Kings which ran at New Diorama Theatre in London, where it was published by Methuen Drama and described in Everything Theatre as “One of the best shows this year”.