Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Soul Sister

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
3 stars
Before the irresistible rise of the juke-box musical, the rock and roll tribute show was king. Queen too if this warts and all Tina Turner homage is anything to go by, as devisers Pete Brooks and John Miller reclaim the form's simple but effective attributes in Brooks' co-production with Bob Eaton. Eaton is a safe pair of hands, having defined the rock and roll musical while running Liverpool's Everyman Theatre. It is significant there is no writer's credit in what amounts to a strip cartoon summation of church-going teenager Anna Mae Bullock's rise, fall and subsequent reinvention in what's now regarded as Turner's 1980s heyday.

This was initially down to Bullock meeting one Ike Turner, a driven musical genius smart enough to see the potential in Bullock's voice enough to put her centre stage. As the pair become entwined personally as well as professionally, Turner's ambition turns to rage, misogyny, drug addiction and wife-beating. This is played out here against a back-drop of American social and political upheaval, with quick-fire archive footage of Martin Luther King, JFK, Malcolm X and Vietnam played out against newly filmed narrative links to speed the action along. Turner's own emancipation comes via a form of trickle-down feminism that allows her to really find her voice.

While the audience boo Ike like a panto villain come early, it's the numbers they came for, and the cast, led by a tirelessly vivacious Emi Wokoma as Tina, give it the full-on soul revue treatment. At times it's as if an old episode of Ready, Steady Go had been brought to life in a fast-moving piece of pop theatre with a social conscience.

The Herald, December 5th 2012

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