It’s hurricane season in the actual Caribbean, so it’s appropriate that Lee Proud’s inventive and joyful production of Once On This Island for British Theatre Academy should start with a storm. With its combination of uneasy rivalries between the French settlers and the natives, and dancing in tribal masks, it’s a pleasant mash-up of Death in Paradise and The Lion King.
Director Lee Proud is firstly a choreographer, and the traverse stage is fully exploited by an enthusiastic and perfectly-focused young cast ducking and weaving through a succession of hugely enjoyable numbers. There’s further inventiveness in the homespun props and the whole event has an air of carnival.
But a true Carib carnival is divided into three sections which vary in energy, and in this production it’s always J’Ouvert, the explosive start of the proceedings.
If anything, the breathless Southwark production could do with a bit of Ash Wednesday when there’s more time for reflection and stillness, as some of the marvellous Ahrens and Flaherty tunes can get crushed under a welter of effects.
BTA students are all under 23 and this group is wonderfully diverse, but universally strong on talent, with an outstanding lead voice in Chrissie Bhima.
Once on This Island, Southwark Playhouse, Newington Causeway, SE1. Tickets £27.50, until 31 August 2019.
Last Updated 15 August 2019