Theatre Royal Stratford East’s The Big Life, which became the West End’s first-ever black British musical when it transferred to the Apollo Theatre this spring, has posted closing notices. The show opened to positive reviews in the West End on 23 May 2005 (previews from 11 May) and was booking to 5 November 2005. It will now close on 1 October to make way for the Donmar Warehouse production of Mary Stuart (See Today’s Other News).

The Big Life was first seen for a month-long run last spring at Theatre Royal Stratford East, where it returned for a limited engagement this February before its West End transfer (See News, 25 Nov 2004 & 8 Mar 2005). The musical transports Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost to 1950s London.

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 period-style ska 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 Big Life is directed by actor Clint Dyer, who made his theatrical directorial debut with the show, and designed by Jenny Tiramani, with lighting by Gerry Jenkinson. The musical has an original score by Paul Joseph, lead singer of British reggae band Nazarites, with a book by Paul Sirett (See News, 8 Apr 2004). It’s presented in the West End by Bill Kenwright Ltd.

A show spokesperson told “The Big Life, a revolutionary production presented alongside Elmina's Kitchen by Bill Kenwright, will come to the end of its five month run on 1 October, having created a new theatregoing audience in the West End.” Kwame Kwei-Armah’s Elmina's Kitchen, the first black British play in the West End, which also received critical acclaim, finished its run at the Garrick Theatre last month (See News, 12 Jul 2005).

Phyllida Lloyd’s production of Mary Stuart, starring Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter, will begin previews at the Apollo on 7 October, opening on 19 October 2005. It’s currently booking to 14 January 2006.

- by Caroline Ansdell