I believe this is my first show from the British Theatre Academy, one of a portfolio of five they are presenting in their summer season.
Once On This Island is a musical by Lynn Ahrens (book and lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (music) and is described on the flyer as “a captivating calypso-flavoured re-telling of The Little Mermaid fairy tale”.
Directed and choreographed by Lee Proud, this production presents a vibrant young company to tell the story of the peasant orphan Ti Moune and her romance with a rich boy.
The stage of the Southwark Playhouse’s Large space is fully utilised with every inch brought into play with sound, colour, dancing and dynamic storytelling. The floor is decorated with island maps, and there are ribbons, shakers, tyres, boxes and ladders utilised at various points to suggest a change in location.
Matthew Chandler founded the British Theatre Academy to provide access to professional training for under-23s of all socioeconomic backgrounds, an ethos which seems echoed by the dedication and professionalism of the performers in this show.
It is hard to single out performers in such a small and tight-knit ensemble, and in fact the company as a whole has received a well-deserved Offies nomination, but Chrissie Bhima shines as Ti Moune, and several ensemble players caught the eye (sadly the programme does not team names with photographs, so I cannot credit them specifically).
I enjoyed the tricky and layered harmonies, the joyous atmosphere in the performance space, and the cultural richness of myth and legend depicted in Once On This Island, especially the spirit of Carnival in this week of the Notting Hill festivities.
The show continues until 31 August at the Southwark Playhouse.