Sunday, 18 August 2019

REVIEW: Once on this Island at the Southwark Playhouse

After making its Broadway debut in 1990, Once on this Island was revived in 2017 with a Stella cast. Although the production did transfer to the UK in 1994 we have yet to see the Broadway Revival come over to London. But this production, by the British Theatre Academy, is the net best thing.

The British Theatre Academy has been around for almost 30 years, providing accessible professional theatre training to young people from all walks of life. This is the companies 5th year presenting a summer season, this year we’ve had Footloose and My Son Pinocchio. Jr perform at the Southwark playhouse with Once on This Island and Dogfight following. 

Whilst this production does resemble quite a lot of similarities to the 2017 Broadway revival, this adaptation is still fresh and exciting. 

The choice of a traverse staging in the Southwark Playhouse space didn’t do the production many favours, I was sat nearer an edge on one side and any action that took play on the opposite side felt isolated and very faraway. However the use of plastics in the set and recycled materials within the production was innovative. 

This production has an electric score, this kind of music is not something we ever hear on the theatre scene. It successfully expands our views of what musical theatre is, this show is perfect for those who are bored of traditional musicals and old classics. Its different and has so much flavour throughout the production. 

The show has been directed and choreographed by West End creative, Lee Proud. The choreography is the true stand out of this show; its bold, bright and executed brilliantly by the cast. The cast are a true credit to Prouds vision for the show. 

This show features a young cast full of enthusiasm for the art. Every single member was engrossed in the story telling of the piece and no matter how big or small their part was, they gave 150% of themselves to the piece. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much energy on one stage! At times it did feel there was too many performers on stage, but each performer proved to us why they has to be there.

Chrissie Bhima leads the cast as Ti Moune, she couldn’t be more perfect for this role. Her vocals are way beyond her years and she embodies the character wonderfully. 

Also stand out performances from Aviva Tulley, Marie-Anna Caufour and Sam Tutty. Tulley provides a smooth and gorgeous sound and her solo “The Human Heart” is like beautiful lullaby, Caufour is enchanting to watch and has a presence and sound that’ll sour her into professional work and Tutty gives a natural and true performance with crisp vocals. Ella Biddlecombe was also a standout performer, in the ensemble she really showed skills you see on the West End stage and I'm sure she has a bright career ahead of her. 

However, this cast are a true ensemble. Ending, rightly so, in a group bow. 

If you want to see the next generation of stars, then you must attend the British Theatre Academy's summer season. This show is electric, bold and full of fresh and exciting talent. 

Review by Mark Swale 

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: B6 | Price of Ticket: £27.50
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