by John Miller and Pete Brooks.

Hackney Empire 291 Mare Street E8 1EJ To 5 May 2012.
Tue-Thu, Sat 7.30pm Fri 8.15pm Sun 5pm Mat Sat & 25 April 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.

TICKETS 0208 985 2424.
Review: William Russell 19 April.

Battered wife and rotten husband.
This tribute to Tina and Ike Turner certainly has the songs. It’s directed with flair by Bob Eaton, there are gorgeous costumes by Laura Hopkins – Tina is covered in spangles throughout – and an ingenious set by Laura Hopkins and Pete Brooks, all sliding panels and back projections, which keeps the rather sordid story of the rock diva and her husband moving from place to place.

There’s a first rate on-stage band to belt out the numbers Tina made famous, and play occasional roles, and a quartet of backing singers who gyrate and warble endlessly.

But it is not a story one cares about. Ike was a wife-beater, an unreconstructed Neanderthal drug addict and womaniser, who could write songs. Tina was a beaten wife who took it far too long before, realising she could be her own woman, she dumped him.

The authors see it as a love story about two people who achieved great things at a time of racist discrimination in America, but this isn’t something they get across. 60s and 70s America is not really conjured up, and nothing they do makes Ike appealing.

The day is saved by Emi Wokama’s stunning performance; her voice, ranging from basso profundo to bat-squeak tones, sounds pretty like Tina. She also manages to keep her dignity throughout.

Chris Tummings’ Ike is suitably repellent – Ike thought the Disney movie portrayed him wrongly; the authors think it dehumanised him. But it is hard, even on the evidence they give, to see why one should not dismiss him as a wife-beating self-obsessed thug – in spite of those songs.

Turner transformed herself post-Ike into a legend – with difficulty, but she achieved it. He never regained the success of their early years together, dying in 2007 aged 76, having finally kicked the drug habit. Tina toured until 2009 and now lives in Switzerland.

The audience rose to its feet at the end, an ovation for once deserved by the cast and Ms Wokama. One hopes her larynx holds-out, and she does not dislocate a hip or two playing Tina, because this show should have a future.

Tina Turner: Emi Wokama.
Ike Turner: Chris Tummings.
Rhoma/Alleen: Sharon Benson.
Ikette – Hattie: Ngo Ngofa.
Ikette – Nettie: Joanne Sandi.
Ikette – Loretta: Ria Horsford.
Ray: Sean Green.
Company/electric guitar: Tony Qunta.
Company/bass guitar: Sean Davis.
Company/drums: Justin Shaw.
Company/tenor sax: Kenton Noel.
Company/ trumpet: Patrick Anthony.

Director: Bob Eaton.
Designers: Pete Brooks, Laura Hopkins.
Lighting: Nick Richings.
Musical Director: Sean Green.
Video: Keith Strachan.
Choreography and Musical Staging: Jason Pennycooke.
Costume: Laura Hopkins.

2012-04-22 20:05:30

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