Following the success of last year’s Da Boyz, a hip-hop version of The Comedy of Errors (See News, 7 May 2003), London’s Theatre Royal Stratford East is once again giving the Bard a new beat. The Big Life, which runs from 22 April to 22 May 2004 (previews from 17 April), transports Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost to 1950s London and sets it to a ska musical score.

While Da Boyz was a remake of Rodgers and Hart's 1938 musical comedy The Boys from Syracuse, one of the first-ever Shakespeare-inspired modern musicals (See Features, 28 Apr 2003), The Big Life is completely original, borne out of Stratford East’s Musical Theatre initiative.

It has a book by Royal Shakespeare Company literary manager Paul Sirett (Rat Pack Confidential) and a score by Paul Joseph, lead singer of reggae band Nazarites, which will be performed by a live five-piece band on stage.

On the Windrush over from the Caribbean to England, a pact is made by a group of men not to get involved with women for three years whilst they ‘institute a regime of work and betterment’. Each man’s resolve is tested as one by one they fall prey to Cupid’s arrow.

With 1950s period-style music, The Big Life charts the story of the Caribbean immigrants in their quest for a better life in Britain and their struggle to find work, homes and acceptance in their adopted country.

The cast includes Jason Pennycooke (Simply Heavenly, Golden Boy, Rent), Claudia Cadette (Rent), Chris Tummings (Buddy), Geoff Aymer, Marcus Powell, Maureen Hibbert, Victor Romero Evans, Lorna Brown, Yaa, Amanda Horlock and Neil Reidman. The Big Life is directed by actor Clint Dyer, making his theatrical directorial debut, and designed by Jenny Tiramani, with lighting by Gerry Jenkinson.

- by Terri Paddock