Review – Soul Sister, Wyvern Theatre

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews, and can be found in it’s original format here:  http://www.thepublicreviews.com/soul-sister-wyvern-theatre-swindon/

Tina Turner has left a lasting legacy with her music, but her rise to success was not an easy one. In a time when life was decided according to skin colour and bars and clubs were segregated, Ike and Tina Turner were just setting out onto their career paths. Beginning as Tina (Emi Wokoma) was just heading out alone, she sings a rendition of Private Dancer to set the scene. Via the use of video screens and costume changes, the audience is then taken back to 1956, the year Tina met Ike (Chris Tummings) and where her career began.

From the moment they meet and young Anna Mae Bullock sings Amazing Grace for him, Ike is in control of everything. He dictates her singing style, her schedule and even her name. In an attempt to make money and sell records, the first few years of their life together is spent constantly touring. Tummings’ Ike is instantly recognisable as a controlling, selfish man and he creates a thoroughly dislikable character.

The set is minimal but set changes are clever with the use of panels which run across the stage rather like wipers. Much of the background story is told with the use of video footage, some of which has narration, other parts simply a backdrop. The space on the stage however means that the Ikettes (Hannah Fairclough, Aisha Jawando, Joanne Sandi and Portia Harry) have plenty of room to fit in some dance moves, and throw some shapes they do.

The orchestra is on stage almost throughout in the form of the Ike and Tina Turner Revue’s band. This touch means they are very much a focus and such a talented band of musicians deserve the right to be seen rocking out. Wokoma fronts them with some extremely confident and powerful vocals and it is plain to see why she is in the lead role. She has the stature and the moves of Turner down to a T. Tummings is an excellent guitarist, ideal for someone playing a fine musician.

Through songs such as River Deep Mountain High, Respect, Shake A Tail Feather and The Best, Soul Sister offer an insight into the turbulent, complex and often violent 20 year love story and rise to fame of two of music’s giants. The final flourish is enough to get everyone up and dancing (or clapping for those unable to) and heading home with a song in their hearts.