Review of The Life at Southwark Playhouse

The Life cast2017
T’Shan Williams (Queen) & David Albury (Fleetwood) – The Life at Southwark Playhouse – (c) Conrad Blakemore

Take a step back into a life you may not have known. A life filled with greed, money and sex all in the heart of busy New York City. Don’t be swayed by feel-good melodies, there is nothing feel-good about living in The Life.

Having its UK premiere, The Life is an entertaining musical about those who lived in the life of prostitution during the 1980s. When Fleetwood (David Albury) and Queen (T’Shan Williams) fall into the life of drugs and prostitution, their dreams of starting a new life together away from the dirty streets of Times Square begin to fade. As the drug addiction gets stronger and Fleetwood’s desire for money becomes his only focus, the couple begin to face the reality of their grim lifestyle.

The play has a talented cast with astounding voices, including Williams and Albury. Although their voices are on point, Williams and Albury needed to dig deeper in character development, as they had little physical and emotional connection on stage. That emptiness of genuine emotion between the actors throughout the story added a state of disconnect between the audience and the actors. Opposite from them, Sharon D. Clarke owned the stage with her powerful voice and complete brilliance as Sonja, a woman born and raised in the life of prostitution. Clarke’s poignant performance was grounded and emotional, leaving the audience yearning for more.

This play is deep rooted in pushing the message of how prostitution appeared in the past. With the powerful music and script, this play has a lot of potential growth in connecting the past with the relevancy of prostitution in today’s world. There were moments where they could have raised the stakes in the production; such as, the hesitation in the fight scenes, which broke the element of belief, and at times the melodramatic choreography.

The Life, no doubt, is a powerhouse of voices that fill the Southwark Playhouse. With its winsome songs, bell-bottom trousers and flashy ‘80s colour, The Life takes audiences back to the dark and disgusting world of prostitution in Times Square.

4 Stars

Review by Aly Chromy

You’re not in Kansas anymore…
A thrilling exposé of the darker side of 1980’s New York, The Life is a defiant and heartfelt musical lament for the old Times Square. A world of pimps and prostitutes, innocents and opportunists, it’s a gutsy and gritty joyride filled with both pathos and fun.

Queen and Fleetwood are just trying to get by. New York has hit a moral rock bottom, and opportunity is becoming a scarcity. Queen is now selling herself to anyone with cash in Times Square, while Fleetwood is spending that cash on his nightly fix. Such is a regular story for those in The Life – just ask Sonja, whose market value as a hooker is depleting. It seems that nothing ever improves for those in The Life, but when a mysteriously innocent farm girl named Mary shows up, and Memphis and Jojo, the biggest players in town, offer to help Queen out, will things start looking up?

Creative Team
Director – Michael Blakemore
Associate Director – Jenny Eastop
Choreographer – Tom Jackson Greaves
Musical Director – Tamara Saringer
Set and Costume Designer – Justin Nardella
Lighting Designer – David Howe
Video Designer – Nina Dunn
Casting Director – Anne Vosser
General Management – David Adkin Limited

Amy Anzel, Matt Chisling and Catherine Schreiber
Bruno Wang, Andrea Leoncini
Carlos Arana and Jim Kierstead

John Addison, David Albury, Jalisa Andrews, Matthew Caputo, Lawrence Carmichael, Sharon D. Clarke, Omari Douglas, Aisha Jawando, Cornell S. John, Thomas-Lee Kidd, Charlotte Reavey, Jo Servi, Lucinda Shaw, Johnathan Tweedie, T’Shan Williams, Joanna Woodward

Amy Anzel, Matt Chisling and Catherine Schreiber present the UK premiere of The Life
Music by Cy Coleman
Lyrics by Ira Gasman
Book by David Newman, Ira Gasman, and Cy Coleman with additional material by Michael Blakemore
Note: This production contains strong language, violence and partial nudity.

25 MARCH – 29 APRIL 2017
Running Time 170 mins including interval. Approx.

One Comment

  1. The reviewer writes, “This play is deep rooted in pushing the message of how prostitution appeared in the past.” Actually, the musical was written in the 1980s, so it was an exploration of contemporary prostitution — contemporary when it was written. Otherwise, very insightful!

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