“I didn’t have anybody, really, no foundation in life, so I had to make my own way. Always, from the start, I had to go out in the world and become strong, to discover my mission in life. Physical strength in a woman – that’s what I am.”
Anna Mae Bullock, known by her stage name Tina Turner, is a singer, dancer, actress, author and choreographer, whose career has spanned more than half a century, earning her widespread recognition and numerous awards. When we remember Tina, we remember Ike’s violence, and we forget that he and Turner produced some of the best R&B live performances and recordings of all time.
Soul Sister is a musical inspired by the music. With Jenny Fitzpatrick starring as Tina Turner I could be nothing but inspired. In the first few scenes she performed songs ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘I Idolise you” with such innocence I wondered if Fitzpatrick had it in her to play the sexy soulful diva, but after performing hits ‘River Deep, Mountain High’, ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’, ‘Steamy Windows’ and ‘Addicted to Love’ with such passion and energy, I thoroughly believed it was the real life incarnation on stage. By the time Fitzpatrick was singing ‘The Best’, the entire audience were out of their seats clapping, singing and some doing moves I ain’t ever seen.
Chris Tummings also gave a believable performance playing the role of Ike Turner. Initially I thought an actor with a bigger build and height than Chris would be needed, as he wasn’t much taller than Fitzpatrick and in some outfits even appeared shorter than her, but the way Tummings used his body language and facial expressions illustrated he had all the qualities of Ike that made you want to scream “help”.
As a whole, the script was a little flat and unbelievable, with many of the smaller roles being less desirable to watch. Throughout the piece we were forced to watch cheaply put together narrative projections which killed the energy on stage every time one was played; the scenery consisted of dark grey flats repeatedly flashing to simply signify scene changes and the musicians, amazing as they were at performing live music, should have left the acting to the professional actors. A story like Tina and Ike’s should easily pull on the heart strings but sadly on this occasion it was not the case.
That being said, Soul Sister is not advertised as a dramatic piece of storytelling but a celebration of the music made by two people who once upon a time were in love. It may not have had a happy ending but it was a relationship that created some of the most popular songs in Western culture which really do speak for themselves. If it’s a celebration of the music you are looking for then this is the show for you with a truck load of energetic stage presence and powerful vocals, it really is a chance to “shake a tail feather”.
Soul Sister is playing the Churchill Theatre, Bromley until 31 August. For more information and tickets, see the ATG Tickets website.