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 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.
Language
English
Country
Great Britain
Medium
Video
Technical information
Colour / Sound
Recording date
21 Jun 2005
Duration
196 mins

Credits

Writer
Paul Sirett
Music
Paul Joseph
Choreographer
Jason Pennycooke
Contributor
Clint Dyer; Robert Hyman
Cast
Victor Romero EvansFerdy (Ferdinand, King of Navarre)
Neil ReidmanBernie (Berowne)
Antonia Kemi CokerZulieka (Princess of France)
YaaSybil (Rosaline)
Amanda HorlockSecretary
Chris TummingsLennie (Longaville)
Claudia CadetteKathy (Catherine)
Geoff Aymer 
Jason PennycookeAdmiral
Marcus PowellDennis (Dumaine)
Tamaka Empson 

Additional Details

Theatre
Apollo Theatre, West End, London
Production type
Stage Recordings
Historical period
1950s
Plays
Love’s Labour’s Lost
Subjects
Drama
Keywords
musicals; Shakespeare, William (1564-1616); Multicultural casting; Black actors; Ska

Notes

Notes
A version of the play was broadcast by the BBC World Service 25 February 2006 and may be accessed at the British Library Sound Archive.
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 in 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

Archive

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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