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 The Theatreguide.London Review

The Big Life
Apollo Theatre      Summer 2005

Billed as "The Ska Musical", you'll find far more styles than just ska in this energetic, funny song-a-minute show that charts the lives of immigrants to 1948 London.

These were the first of the post-war wave of skilled workers from the Caribbean, sailing on the Empire Windrush and lured to these foggy shores with the promise of lucrative jobs at the heart of the British Empire.

Instead they met with overwhelming prejudice and found themselves shunned and struggling to find work at even the lowest rungs of society.

Paul Sirett (words) and Paul Joseph (music) have created an inspired romp through of the first years of these pioneers, finding a golden lining for every knock and setback they suffer.

A multi-talented ensemble sing and dance their way through bouncy numbers that take their inspiration from the fifties and sixties: the big opener In Inglan, deliciously witty duet Mister You're In Love, foot-tapping Gettin' Hot, and plaintive yet powerful The Price We Pay.

It's interesting to experience the inventiveness this West End production has inherited from its genesis in a small East End theatre -- the Theatre Royal Stratford East. An almost bare stage converts instantly to the Windrush deck, a dingy boarding house, a hospital ward or even Piccadilly Circus.

And you can only envy director Clint Dyer for this opportunity to get the best out of a ripping cast that includes Marcus Powell's rudeboy Dennis, Yvette Rochester-Duncan's no-nonsense Mary and Geoff Aymer's prone-to-temptation Reverend, with commentary from the balcony courtesy of Tameka Empson's wonderfully batty Mrs Aphrodite.

Nick Awde

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Review of  The Big Life - Apollo Theatre 2005