REVIEW – Playboy of the West Indies at the Birmingham Rep is fitting on warm summer evening

CALYPSO music and a story set on an idyllic West Indian island seemed just the show to go to on a barmy summer evening in Birmingham.

A feeling which is compounded by a smile-inducing entrance to the auditorium – where the Rep’s cavernous stage had been transformed to a tropical paradise.

Palm trees surround two huge set pieces, which move together without a care in the world to form  ‘Peggy’s’ a Rum Bar, A place where you could blissfully spend the night.

This is the setting lovingly designed by Michael Taylor and lit in splendid Technicolor by Matt Eagland.

The ‘Playboy of the West Indies’ is a musical based upon the play of the same name  by Mustapha Matura – which in turn Matura wrote as a parody to JM Synge’s ‘Playboy of the Western World’.

Clement Ishmael and Dominque Le Gendre are the music composers and they plus others provide the lyrics for a mixed bag of songs. Some are joyous, a couple uplifting and some with so may words coming at you so fast that  I for one lost concentration on what was being sung about.

The same applies to the delivery of parts of the script where the accents and slang whilst being laughed at uproariously by some, others including me felt excluded from the party at times.

The plot is simple enough, in a village where nothing happens, a stranger comes to town and is hailed as some sort of anti-hero when he says he has killed his father in a fight and is on the run from the police.  Turns out his father survived and comes after him for a rematch. Our playboy is wooed by the women and booed by the men.

Durone Stokes turns in the complete performance as the stranger Ken.  He is charismatic, crystal clear and has a superb singing voice. If all the company had delivered like Stokes then this show could rise from good to triumphant.

Gleanne Purcell-Brown as Peggy and Angla Wynter as Mam Benin also turn out inclusive and carefully constructed performances.

From the programme it appears that the direction is a team effort – always a rocky road to go down – direction by committee oft ends in tears. I’m not saying this happens here because you still come out feeling happy and goodness knows that’s a rare treat in these dark days.


Review by Euan Rose.

Euan Rose Reviews

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