British Universities Film & Video Council

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Big Life, The

Alternative title
The Ska Musical
Synopsis
Based loosely on the plot of Love’s Labour’s Lost, the action of this much acclaimed ska musical is set in 1950s London. The Big Life follows the fortunes of a group of Caribbean immigrants arriving in Britain on board of the Windrush. In order to make the most of their new lives in England, they vow to forswear women and to devote themselves to self-improvement. In the radio adaptation the play is narrated by the Admiral, one of the passengers of the ship.
Series
Play of the Week (BBC World Service)
Language
English
Country
Great Britain
Medium
Radio; Video
Transmission details
25 Feb 2006 at 18:30 (Channel: BBC World Service)
Duration
90 mins

Credits

Director
Clint Dyer
Producer
Rosalynd Ward
Writer
Paul Sirett
Music
Paul Joseph
Contributor
Robert Hyman
Cast
Victor Romero EvansFerdy (Ferdinand, King of Navarre)
Neil ReidmanBernie (Berowne)
Antonia Kemi CokerZulieka (Princess of France)
Joanna FrancisSybil (Rosaline)
Amanda HorlockSecretary
Chris TummingsLennie (Longaville)
Claudia CadetteKathy (Catherine)
Geoff Aymer 
Jason PennycookeAdmiral
Lorna BrownMary (Maria)
Marcus PowellDennis (Dumaine)

Additional Details

Production type
Television and Radio Drama
Historical period
1950s
Plays
Love’s Labour’s Lost
Subjects
Drama
Keywords
musicals; Shakespeare, William (1564-1616); Multicultural casting; Black actors; Ska

Notes

Notes
The stage production of the play is recorded on 3 cameras from the performance at the Apollo Theatre on 21 June 2005 and available for viewing by appointment at the V&A Theatre & Performance Collections, National Video Archive of Performance.
General
The Big Life was the first black British musical ever to be performed in the West End. The title of the production is taken from Sam Selvon’s novel The Lonely Londoners (1956).
History
The musical premiered at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, London, on 7 April 2004 where it was directed by Clint Dyer. After a repeat run at Stratford in February 2005, it transferred to the West End Apollo Theatre on 23 May 2005.
The Big Life is the first musical to be broadcast in the BBC World Service ‘Play of the Week ‘series.
Textual information
The script of the musical was published by Oberon Books in April 2004.
Reviews
Ferris, Lesley. "The Big Life: The Ska Musical."
Theatre Journal 57.1 (2005): 110-112.

Ritchie, Fiona. "The Big Life, by Paul Sirett." Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation. 1.2 (2006): np. http://atropos.english.uga.edu/cocoon/borrowers/current_index

Online Availability

Online URL
http://www.stratfordeast.com/big%20life.htm

Production Company

Name

BBC World Service

Archive

Name

British Library Sound Archive

Email
listening@bl.uk
Web
http://www.bl.uk/nsa External site opens in new window
Phone
020 7412 7676
Fax
020 7412 7441
Address
96 Euston Road
London
NW1 2DB
Name

V&A Theatre & Performance Collections: National Video Archive of Performance

Email
tmenquiries@vam.ac.uk
Web
http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/t/nvap/ External site opens in new window
Phone
020 7942 2697
Fax
020 7471 9864
Address
Blythe House
23 Blythe Road
London
W14 0QX

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