The Life - review
Southwark Playhouse

Words by: Abiola Lawal | Published: Friday, March 31, 2017 7:41 AM
The Life at Southwark Playhouse - (c) Conrad Blakemore The Life at Southwark Playhouse - (c) Conrad Blakemore

The Life is a new musical opening at the Southwark playhouse, originally from Broadway the musical has been running in the States since 1997 and tells the story of pimps and hookers set in 1970s New York. The story centres on a young, often-times naive young woman called Queen, played by T’ Shawn Williams (The Book of Mormon) and her troubled Vietnam War veteran boyfriend, Fleetwood, played by David Albury (The Lion King). Both have moved to the Big Apple to try and make a life for themselves. Queen is forced into prostitution and is helped by her friend, the always witty Sonja, played by Sharon D. Clarke (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Holby City), to escape the business. The original Broadway director, Michael Blakemore, who is now 88 is also directing this production at the Southwark.

I want people to go and see The Life and get to be as surprised, delighted, shocked, appalled and moved as I was.


See listing for The Life


I am not a huge fan of musicals, but this was ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC. I want to encourage everyone out there to go and experience what the cast, crew, orchestra and the Southwark Playhouse have done with this musical because it is magical.


From the erotic energy, to the raw reality of life on the brutal New York streets, mixed with the stunning dance and incredible vocals from every character in this production they have created a performance that is just outstanding. The visuals of the set are inspiring as this play has such a large personality that you would expect it to be on a huge West End stage, but The Playhouse made it work and in fact the intimacy of the smaller space draws the audience closer into the lives of the pimps, hookers and Johns of 1970s New York.


L-R Charlotte Reavey (April) & Cornell S John (Memphis) - The Life at Southwark Playhouse - (c) Conrad Blakemore L-R Charlotte Reavey (April) & Cornell S John (Memphis) - The Life at Southwark Playhouse - (c) Conrad Blakemore

At times there were some uncomfortable scenes with the ultimate bad man pimp, Memphis, played by Cornell S. John (Kidulthood). His scenes made me recoil and want to jump on that stage to give him a piece of my mind, but he was so excellent that even when we didn’t want to clap all of us in the audience just had to. There was a palpable hesitation across the theatre, particularly after one of his most odious songs, but we caved as an audience and gave him his dues with a round of applause.

The amazing vocals from both Williams and Clarke took my breath away and nearly lifted me out of my seat and at times brought a lump to my throat.


Read interview with Sharon D Clarke


The beautiful friendship between Queen and Sonja was heart-warming, funny and uplifting in a story that portrays a dark, usually hidden, world where you cannot trust anyone and there is no such things as friendship, only money. The amazing vocals from both Williams and Clarke took my breath away and nearly lifted me out of my seat and at times brought a lump to my throat.


I could gush and gush about the beauty of this musical, The Life but I do not want to give anything away. I want people to go and see this production and get to be as surprised, delighted, shocked, appalled and moved as I was. Please go and see this new musical you will not regret it! But be warned this is for ADULTS ONLY!


Info: The Life is at Southwark Playhouse until 25 April 2017 / see listing for more information and booking info




join our mailing list
* indicates required
Get regular updates on what's happening in the world of African-Caribbean theatre and win theatre tickets.

ENTER YOUR DETAILS BELOW: