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  • Writer's pictureImmersive Rumours

Review: Rumble In The Jungle Rematch

Immersive Rumours received complimentary tickets to this show and as such, are disclosing this information before our review. They have had no input in the below and all thoughts are our own.


Canada Water seems to do pretty well for itself when it comes to immersive experiences - there's an area a stones throw from the tube station that has been home to some of the capital’s best experiences in the last decade. Whether it’s Secret Cinema’s run of shows between 2015 and 2016 at Harmsworth Quays that saw the company at a creative high or the ongoing story within Phantom Peak, Canada Water is a hotspot for great immersive work. This trend continues with Rumble In The Jungle Rematch, taking place at Dock X from now until the end of October.


Inspired by the events surrounding the infamous 1974 fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, the latest show from Rematch - who specialise in recreating infamous sporting moments of the past, is a heavyweight contender for one of the best new immersive shows of the year.


A press conferencing featuring Muhammad Ali and Don King with David Frost at Rumble In The Jungle Rematch
Photo: Rumble In The Jungle Rematch/Lox Photography

Rumble In The Jungle Rematch has big shoes to fill - how can you try and do justice to what is widely regarded as the best sporting moment of all time? Director Miguel Hernando Torres Umba seems to have found the answer - by expanding the scope of the show well beyond the boxing ring, to the entire city of Kinshasa. It’s a show that explores the impact and legacy these once-in-a-lifetime events have on individuals, countries, and the culture as a whole and demonstrates how the ripple effect from one night can echo for decades afterwards.

In 1974, the country of Zaire was overseen by President Mobutu, who had seized power in a coup nine years prior to the big fight. Throughout his presidency, he would regularly have political opponents killed, repeatably used the country’s infrastructure and resources to grow his own personal wealth, and mismanaged the country’s economy amongst many other things. Most agree that the boxing match took place in Zaire in an attempt to both distract from the political scrutiny Mobutu was under at the time and improve the reputation of Zaire to the wider world - which today we refer to as sports-washing.


In the days leading up to your visit, you’ll be encouraged to register on the events online portal. Once on there, you’re offered a choice of four character types - World Boxing Organiser, Reporter, Performer and Spectator. Each has its own outfit suggestions and point of contact once you’ve made it to Kinshasa.


For our visit, we chose to be Reporters, and our contact was David Frost - who gave us a thorough walk-and-talk introduction to the city of Kinshas once we found him. He also tasked us with trying to interview the two fighters on tape (though this seems to be a unique one-off experience, as we didn’t see any other reporters with tape recorders in hand during our evening...)

Once inside you’re free to explore the space - which is impressively large, complete with multiple stages, bars and food vendors, a locker room, market stalls and training areas. While it’s all built to a very high standard and has a lot of small details scattered throughout, there isn’t much else to discover after your initial walkthrough of the space, and the focus of the show’s immersive elements seems to be on large crowd experiences over individual exploration, though it's there if you dive head first into the experience...

David Frost interviewing Don King at Rumble In The Jungle Rematch
Photo: Rumble In The Jungle Rematch/Lox Photography

The tape recorder we'd been handed earlier in the evening came into its own during a scene where George Foreman was doing a speech in the market area mid way through the show. While attempting to 'record' what was being said, George spotted us in the mass of observers and beckoned us over to ask him a few questions in front of the crowd. Alexander Ajuwon, who portrays George Foreman, does a stellar job of capturing his mannerisms, and we found ourselves rooting for him to win, even already knowing the outcome of the yet-to-happen fight.


Shortly after our on-stage interview, we followed a hint from David Frost we got earlier in the show and we were able to speak to a character in a secluded corner after a confrontation with the local military police and learn more about their opinions on the wider political climate in Zaire at the time. It’s a testament to the show that it doesn’t shy away from addressing the reality of the times.


There are repeated references to the hardship that locals find themselves under despite the eyes of the world turning to their backyards, and you can sense the tension between what is outwardly portrayed to be happening in Zaire and the reality away from the cameras.

David Frost commentating in front of a boxing ring at Rumble In The Jungle Rematch
Photo: Rumble In The Jungle Rematch/Lox Photography

For non-reporters, their experiences will likely differ as their focus is centred elsewhere from the outset. Those who opt for the World Boxing Committee character type could likely spend their time only following the boxers around from press conferences to interviews to training sessions and get a deeper feel for the fighters’ headspaces and relationship with one another going into the fight. If you’re mainly there as a fan of boxing, this feels like the path for you.


The same goes for those who choose to be Supporting Artists - the focus would largely be on the musical aspects of the experience, of which the show has many. It all comes to a head just before the finale of the show with a performance on the main stage featuring James Brown, Miriam Makeba and Cecil Cruz as part of Zaire 74 - a largely forgotten music festival that took place in the build to the fight.

Photo: Rumble In The Jungle Rematch/Lox Photography


For those who want a bit more history concerning Muhammad Ali and his journey leading up to the fight, there’s a 10-minute VR experience tucked away towards the back of the venue, which while being very informative, is maybe overly long when you can remove the headset and see a real-life interpretation of Ali with your own eyes in the same space.


The food offerings for those who travel to Kinshasa is courtesy of The Future Plate and is a mix of Congolese and Western fusion. The smell of their cooking permeates the venue and adds another level of immersion for guests, whether they chose to eat or not. Another nice touch within Rumble In The Jungle is the cup system for drinks - for a £1 charge you get a reusable cup themed to the fight which also serves as a nice souvenir of the experience. For those inclined, there's also show programmes and a selection of merchandise available.

Muhammad Ali approaching the boxing ring at Rumble In The Jungle Rematch
Photo: Rumble In The Jungle Rematch

The main event on the Rumble In The Jungle Rematch card is undoubtedly the finale of the show, which seems a live recreation of the Ali-Foreman fight. With audiences flanking three sides of the boxing ring on tiered seating, and a backdrop of archive footage from the original fight, live coverage of Rematch's recreation, and several well executed pre-recorded moments projected behind the ring, the recreation of the fight is a sight to behold from start to finish.


Rematch's recreation contains some of the most impressive fight choreography we’ve seen on a stage, and is breathtaking to watch. With every punch, block and dodge on the huge backing screen being mirrored precisely by the two actors playing Ali and Foreman, it’s a spectacle from start to finish and witnessing it first-hand is undoubtably the highlight of the show.


★★★★

 

Rumble In The Jungle Rematch is located in Canada Water and is current set to run until October 29th. For more information visit rumbleinthejunglerematch.com









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