THEATRE REVIEW: The Life starring Sharon D. Clarke

WORTH A LOOK?: ****

WHERE: Southwark Playhouse

WHEN: 1/4 (matinee), runs to 29/4

We loved Cy Coleman’s score for film noir musical City Of Angels at the Donmar and so had to see his show about 80s New York prostitutes starring one of our favourite actresses, Sharon D. Clarke (pictured second from left above).

  • Read on for reasons including what a dynamic intimate theatrical space this is

This is our second visit to Southwark Playhouse (we very much enjoyed the recent Diary Of A Teenage Girl in the smaller of the two spaces here) but it is this production in the larger 240-seat Main House we felt compelled to review.

The Life is about a group of prostitutes working in and around Times Square, New York, and centres on Queen (newcomer T’shan Williams, a name to look out for in the future), her pimp boyfriend, best friend Sonja (Clarke as good as she was in Ma Rainey at the National last year) and new-in-town Mary (Joanna Woodward, whose transformation is remarkable).

It’s a musical unlike any we’ve ever seen before as we get to know the women, the men who exploit them and we root for the heroines as they each attempt their own escapes from the situations in which they find themselves.

Coleman won Grammys, Emmys and Tonys and his co-writes include show tunes of the calibre of Big Spender and If My Friends Could see Me Now (both from Sweet Charity).

We especially enjoyed Woodward’s Easy Money but it’s Clarke’s world weary showstoppers including The Oldest Profession, ‘Someday’ is for Suckers and tear-stained finale My Friend that hit home hard.

We never saw Bad Girls – the musical but this is exactly how we would wish it to be. The source material is such a joy that is perhaps why this production is a tad too reverential with it and why, at two hours and 50 minutes with interval, our only criticism would be it could lose a few minutes.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Southwark Playhouse. Tickets
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