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Posts Tagged ‘Natalie Dew’

I saw an amazing site-specific play called Roadkill by playwright Stef Smith in Edinburgh almost six years ago. Her Royal Court debut is sort of amazing, but in a different way.

Something odd is going on. Animals and birds are being culled and their habitats destroyed in the belief that they are carrying disease. Our six characters react differently – complying, exploiting, rebelling or just plain resignation. As the situation gets worse, their relationships are damaged and reactions more and more hysterical. Alex has returned from her travels to see her widowed mother Nancy and ends up chained to the railings of the park they are trying to burn. Her mother just tries to get on with life, uninvolved with the decline outside. Jamie and Lisa, deeply in love, fall apart as Lisa starts working for a man who’s benefitting from the disaster and Jamie rescues and hides animals and birds. John has a strong friendship with Nancy but is puzzled by the intentions and attention of Si, Lisa’s new boss. We get a glimpse of what’s happening in the outside world through a Perspex wall.

I’m afraid I felt very ‘so what’ about it. It seems to be showing us how society can react with hysteria and panic, happy to blame nature for anything and everything, but it didn’t really go anywhere. There are six fine performances – Natalie Dew, Ian Gelder, Stella Gonet, Lisa McGrills, Sargon Yelda & Ashley Zhangazha – luxury casting indeed, the design by Camilla Clarke keeps surprising you (and sometimes challenges your tolerance – I was too close to cockroaches for my liking!) and it’s well staged by Hamish Pirie. In the end though I thought the material wasn’t worthy of the creative and acting talent.

Disappointed at the Royal Court again.

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Based on the 2002 film of the same name, this stage musical is completely faithful to the original, retains the period and adds original music by Howard Goodall to produce something even more feel-good than the film. I loved it, and have already booked to go again!

Jess is a bright British Indian 18-year-old who’s obsessed with football, and with her hero David Beckham. She’s spotted playing in the park with local Indian boys by fellow footballer and local women’s team member Jules, who invites her to try out for her team, which she subsequently joins. Her parents, who are knee-deep in preparations for their elder daughter’s engagement and subsequent wedding, don’t really approve and she continues her footballing in secret, but when the secret is out she is forced to stop.

What it is, of course, is the journey of many British born young people of Indian descent, trying to balance family and heritage culture with life in Britain. It uses the British Indian ability and willingness to find humour within, and use it to celebrate, its culture to great effect. Paul Mayeda Berges & Gurinder Chadha’s book and Charles Hart’s lyrics are very funny, but it’s also very moving and respects the underlying themes. The addition of music adds another dimension and it betters the film as a result. By interweaving Indian musical styles and incorporating heritage singers, Goodall has produced a score which retains his trademark melodic style but sounds different, rather unique and very much in keeping with the story.

Miriam Buether’s clever set has a semi-circle of seven panels which rotate to move us from home to playing field to changing rooms to park, and so on. Katrina Lindsay’s costumes are terrific, a riot of colour. Aletta Collins’ excellent choreography moves us from night club to Indian wedding, anchoring the piece wherever it is at that moment. This is director Gurinder Chadha’s first stage show but you’d never believe it. It’s clear how close she is to it; as she also co-wrote and directed the film, it’s probably running through her bloodstream.

Both Lauren Samuels and Natalie Dew are excellent, but it’s Dew who has to carry the emotional heart of the story and she does so with great warmth and charm. You find yourself sympathising with her and rooting for her to the point of having to resist the temptation to intervene on her behalf! Tony Jaywardena and Natasha Jayetileke are wonderful as Jess’ parents, themselves torn between keeping control and letting go. Preeya Kalidas was indisposed on Saturday, but having seen how good her understudy Sejal Keshwala was as Jess’ sister Pinky, I just can’t see anyone else being better. One of the few changes is that Jules mum Paula is here divorced, so the always excellent Sophie-Louise Dann has to carry all of the parental pressure and support on her shoulders and she’s great. There are too many other fine performances in this excellent ensemble to single out more.

The audience seemed to reflect the cultural mix on stage and they responded enthusiastically. Like those other British musicals Billy Elliott, Betty Blue Eyes and Made in Dagenham, it takes a heart-warming film and betters it. It’s a departure for Goodall, who has produced many other great shows but few commercial hits. Given the undeserved early baths that Betty and Dagenham got, lets hope this follows Billy as a British musical hit. For me, it already is.

 

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