Brian Mitchell comeback on track

Brian Mitchell and local funny man and playwright Tim Plewman. Pic: Yolanda van der Stoep

The rumours are true – Brian Mitchell is making a comeback to the boxing ring.

Happily, while he’ll be in boxing garb with ring card girls and lights as backdrops, his role will be limited to that as the lead actor in “The Road Warrior”, starting at Emperors Palace in October.

It’s a one-man play written and directed by eminent SA playwright Tim Plewman, perhaps best known for having written and starred in the runaway stage success “Defending the Caveman”.

Borrowing from a style made famous by Mike Tyson in “The Undisputed Truth”, directed by Spike Lee, which became a stage hit in the US, Mitchell’s role is nonetheless unique for a local sportsman.

Although he and Bruce Fordyce have previously been on stage together and Mitchell starred in a local pantomime 11 years ago, this is the first time a South African sportsman will have the spotlight all to himself for a show that will run for an hour-and-a-quarter.

Mitchell (55) isn’t particularly daunted by the prospect, having learned long ago not to let nerves rattle him. Besides, anyone who can stand up to Tony Lopez or Joe Rivera is unlikely to be troubled by an audience.

The idea for the play first took shape about a year ago after the acclaimed former world champion had watched Plewman bring the house down with “Defending the Caveman”. Given his own narrative as the boy from the wrong side of the tracks who had overcome adversity to become one of SA’s greatest sportsmen, Mitchell had every reason to believe that his story was worth telling on a big stage.

Plewman wasn’t convinced. And then Mitchell handed him his autobiography. Plewman came back after reading it. “Love it, let’s do it,” he said.

As the blurb says, “Brian takes us through his incredible journey, a rags to riches, wives and bitches, make-or-break, never-say-die scrap that took him from a rebellious youth to having his name in lights and being inducted into the world boxing Hall of Fame.”

Ever since teaming up, the pair have been back and forth with Plewman checking in with Mitchell, writing the script, comparing notes and making revisions. They’re just about there and rehearsals loom in September.

“It’s been a helluva lot of work, but what a pleasure dealing with a pro like Tim, who is highly intelligent and brilliant at what he does,” says Mitchell, who doubles as publicist for Golden Gloves and keeps his weight down with regular workouts at Nicky Ness’ famous amateur gym in Booysens.

Standard tickets (available at Computicket) will range in price from R150-R200 with a R400 option that includes dinner.

As ever with Mitchell, “The Road Warrior” promises a couple of surprises and knockout lines.