REVIEW: ONCE ON THIS ISLAND
By Uchenna Izundu
Tuesday, August 11, 2009.
This reggae infused musical fairytale about Ti Moune, determined to find love on a Caribbean island where people are segregated by their skin colour, is a snazzy and energetic affair.
She is a dark skinned girl who was saved by the gods and is determined to prove to them that love can conquer death. Ti Moune (Shyko Amos) is from the black impoverished community in Haiti and she falls for Daniel Beauxhomme, the mixed race Prince, who has affluent French roots. After nursing him back to health after his car accident, her family try to dissuade her from seeking his love – pleading that their groups do not mix.
Through group dance routines, the cast is lively and engaging with lovely costumes and a sparkling set that embraces the rainbow colours of the Caribbean.
The demon of death is the charismatic Jo Servi, who flashes a menacing grin in a sharp bowler hat and amusing skeleton suit. However, the voodoo element that the gods play in Ti Moune’s destiny, is watered down.
Sharon D Clarke, from Holby City, does not have a starring role, despite the publicity posters giving the impression to the contrary. She plays goddess Asaka, which is the patron of agricultural activities, and sports a great straw hat! Her warm and throaty voice is a delight throughout the musical numbers.
This love story doesn’t hold the depth or the complexity of star crossed lovers like Romeo and Juliet: more dialogue and character development is required. What is lovely to watch in this production is its organic nature where the villagers, who are the story tellers, use whatever is at hand to drive the narrative and invoke the spirit of the island. The tempo of this story really only picks up in the second half of the show and unfortunately there isn’t any overriding tune that leaves an impression after it’s finished.
Otherwise, as a show with high production values, its simplicity should be enjoyable for family audiences and adults who have a sweet tooth.
Uchenna Izundu is a London-based journalist, editor and writer. She co-chairs Aspire, a support network for Black and minority ethnic journalists in the UK.
Once on This Island is based on the novel My Love, My Love by Rosa Guy
Hackney Empire, Until August 16, 2009.
Telephone : 020 8985 2424
Tickets from £12.50-£19.50
Book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Music by Stephen Flaherty