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Posts Tagged ‘Preeya Kalidas’

It’s title is a term for an artist’s treatment of light and shade and it’s a 1986 play by the current Scottish poet laureate Jackie Kay about four women of colour and their search for identity. The Bush Theatre’s new artistic director Lynette Linton has turned it into a piece of gig theatre, with music by Shiloe Coke, who also plays Beth.

The four women are recording songs in a studio. Aisha is the singer and her heritage is Punjabi, the other three play guitar, keyboards and drums between them. Beth is gay and her family are from the Caribbean, Yomi is a single mum and her family are Nigerian and Opal is mixed race and coming to terms with her sexuality. Between songs they tell their individual stories using a significant object from their lives as a starting point, even a talisman. They form relationships and friendships, but there’s also tension.

I really liked Shiloe Coke’s songs and she played Beth beautifully, with superb timing and great passion. Preeya Kalidas’s Aisha also acts as a narrator or anchor and she sings the songs very well. Gloria Onitiri plays the spiky, brittle Yomi with just the right amount of edge and when she reveals her homophobia as Beth & Opal’s relationship develops it shocks. Anoushka Lucas’ performance as Opal makes you feel that she has the longest and most transformative journey. Fine performances all round.

I did feel the narrative lacked depth, of both characterisation and story, but it’s difficult to do that in 85 minutes including songs. Instead, It leaves you with thoughts and impressions and an idea of the roads to be travelled to uncover and establish identity.

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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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