Reviews Round-up: The Big Life 3.4★

 Stratford East, London

Membres of the cast of The Big Life at Stratford East theatre in London dancing on stage February 2024
The Big Life. Photo: Mark Senior

The Big Life, Paul Sirett and Paul Joseph’s 2004 ska musical, uses the plot of Love’s Labour’s Lost to tell a story about people arriving in Britain on the Windrush in the 1950s. Twenty years after it was launched there, it has been revived at Stratford East, directed by Tinuke Craig.

(There are links to the full reviews but these are sometimes behind paywalls.)

The Daily Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish (4★) was very happy to see its return. Calling it ‘joyous’, he said: ‘watching it feels like a holiday in itself.. this slick, vividly staged revival by Tinuke Craig.’ ‘Joyous’ crops up in Anya Ryan’s review in Time Out (4★). She liked the ‘colossally talented cast, but the evening belongs to Tameka Empson’. Louise Penn in Broadway World (4★) praised ‘a big heart and a sense of fun’. Nick Curtis’ review for the Evening Standard (4★) said: ‘The Big Life is a big-hearted, baggy piece of work, more joyful than breast-beating, with a bouncy score by Paul Joseph. It’s not subtle, but it’s damn good fun.’

The Guardian’s Arifa Akbar (3★) also calls it ‘baggy’ but highlights ‘incredibly infectious songs, ebullient spirit and stunning performances’. Alun Hood in Whats On Stage (3★) doesn’t use the word ‘baggy’ but did say: ‘the lack of dramatic substance starts to become more apparent as Tinuke Craig’s production meanders on.’ Nevertheless he praised it as a ‘rollicking crowd pleaser.’ Clive Davis in The Times (3★) agreed that it could do with a 30 minute trim’ but described it as ‘very broad and very colourful’. Siobhan Murphy in The Stage (3★) found it ‘good fun’ but laments ‘the slightly meandering main action.’

The Big Life can be seen at Stratford East until 30 March 2024  Buy tickets directly from the theatre

Average Rating 3.4★

Value Rating 74 (Value rating is achieved by dividing the Average review rating by the top rice (excluding premium prices)