Sunday, October 2

Playboy of the West Indies – The Rep, Birmingham

This new musical has its world premiere taking to the stage as part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival which is part of the Commonwealth Games Cultural programme.

Based on an old Irish 3 act comedy (Playboy of the Western world), this reinvented play by Mustapha Matura has taken on another lease of life in this upbeat, but sometimes dark musical. Matura came to the UK from Trinidad as part of the Windrush generation and wrote about life in the West Indies.

Set in a rum shop in a quiet village on Trinidad, we meet Peggy who is resigned to a life of routine and work and a marriage to a man her father has chosen for her. When a stranger comes to the village the whole place seems to come alive. Who is this man and is he all he really seems?

The music (composed by Clement Ishmael) transports you to the Caribbean with a wide range of styles and beats. The tunes are guaranteed to get your toes tapping and leave a smile on your face while they continue to tell the story. Every aspect that makes this show work is carried through into the songs, the humour and the characterisation doesn’t stop when the music starts.

Photo: Geraint Lewis

Playing the mysterious stranger Ken, Durone Stokes treats the audience to some beautiful heartfelt songs with a stunning voice. The target of his affections Peggy (Gleanne Purcell-Brown) is a deep character who knows what she wants. Purcell-Brown gives a nuanced performance with plenty of subtle humour. In contrast to Peggy is Mama Benin (Angela Wynter) she is larger than life and beautifully delivers much of the humour through her performance.

All of the cast work perfectly together to deliver this story that has romance, humour and drama. 

The programme, now in digital format, contains a glossary. This is useful for those people unfamiliar with local West Indian terms. As with the music, dialogue keeps the whole piece firmly routed in the Caribbean.

You may never have heard of the play and know nothing of the story, but this will not stop you enjoying this show. There is something for everyone, along with a score that brings the sunshine, the story will keep you guessing right to the end. Playboy of the West Indies is a perfect production to put on as part of the festival, bringing part of the Commonwealth to Birmingham in a colourful and enjoyable show.

Playing until 2nd July,

Reviewer: Annette Nuttall

Reviewed: 15th June 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★