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‘Bend It Like Beckham’ Musical – Gurinder Chadha dreaming and remembering…

‘Bend It Like Beckham’ Musical – Gurinder Chadha dreaming and remembering…

June 9 2015

Director Gurinder Chadha and cast tell us what lies at the heart of the new musical stage version of the seminal and hit film, ‘Bend It Like Beckham’…

TURNING a much-loved film into a play is a risky business but Gurinder Chadha’s (pictured above right) “Bend It Like Beckham” (BILB) musical is a triumph.

Sweet, sentimental and slickly entertaining – it is perhaps a tad deeper and more immersive than the hugely successful film itself.

Its essential appeal shouldn’t be underestimated – it’s inspiring and uplifting and many teenage girls will enjoy and benefit from seeing it – and so will boys and families who believe they treat their daughters as they do their sons, but then fail to teach them both how to cook and look after a home.

Natalie Dew on her central character Jess’ journey: 'It’s about finding her identity and most of us in our teenage years have gone through something similar – trying to find out who we are – it’s about her journey and seeing where she gets.'
Jamie Campbell Bower on coach 'Joe': 'The defining feature is that he had an opportunity when he was younger to play professional football and he was put into a situation by his father where he didn’t enjoy it any more. So, I think he is somewhat living vicariously through the girls that’s why he doesn’t want to see Nat’s character Jess fail. That his drive, that is his motivation. His dream has become their reality.'
Lauren Samuels on Jules: 'She is incredibly focused on her game and she meets Jess and sees a bit of herself in Jess and therefore says this is my dream and you will want it as well, so let me push you, to follow me - let’s both realise this dream of playing professionally together.'

“What I am able to do with the musical is examine what it was about the film that was popular all over the world,” Chadha told “No one expected to the film to be as huge as it was.”

All the characters are eminently likeable – they are not perfect by any means but BILB – both the film and the musical – is about having dreams and keeping them despite the many obstacles that you may face.

There’s an important declaration made by Mr Bhamra (the splendid Tony Jayawardena, Jess’ father) in the play when her coach Joe (Jamie Campbell Bower) says she could play professionally.

“Don’t fill her head with idiotic ideas…”

Mr Bhamra had dreams once too, like many a parent, but then so many obstacles – racism being one of them – stopped him in his tracks.

From one generation to another dreams change and take a different shape, sometimes the older generation don’t understand and become defensive (and reactionary).

Chadha’s own aesthetic was shaped immeasurably by her late father she revealed, and it’s really rather telling.

“My Dad loved cinema of course – he used to see every damn film that came out when he was young and he was forever singing film songs,” she explained.

“My love of music comes from him.”

Chadha’s first film memory was not a classic Hindi film but a Walt Disney musical – “Song of the South”.

“One of my earliest memories is my Dad taking me to the cinema in Southall. I was small and I remember him holding me and it was ‘Song of the South’, it’s got the ‘Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah‘ song, and I remember being really frightened and my Dad took me down to the front to show that it was just a screen.

“It’s one of my earliest memories, I must have been about two or three years old.”

Both the girls had to learn how to play football – the singing, dancing and acting was not the biggest challenge.
Dew (above right): 'I didn’t know anything about football, I do now. It’s been a learning curve but the best possible one.'
Samuels (above left): 'I went into training with Natalie. I knew nothing about football and suddenly I had to learn it and now, yes I like it.'

Her love of musicals has fed into this production and the music by experienced West End Impresario Howard Goodall with input from bhangra legend Kuljit Bhamra really works, though there is the odd place where it dips.

It’s a shame there isn’t a little more Punjabi or Bhangra music but getting the balance is a balancing act when you know most of the audience will be non-Asian.

The tunes are very catchy and the singing starts solidly and gathers momentum – Preeya Kalidas as Pinky, Jess’s sister is especially good. (Somebody give her lead part in a musical, she would absolutely smash it as she did in “Bombay Dreams“.).

Chadha told us: “I love musicals – ‘Billy Elliot’ and ‘Les Miserables’ and my first visit to the cinema in Ealing, was to see the ‘Wizard of Oz’ and ‘The Sound of Music’.”

It’s fair to say there’s something of the same joy and energy of the latter in this.

In many ways now, it looks like a surefire hit – still in previews, it is doing good business and getting rave notices.

But it’s taken 13 years to bring to the stage – with Chadha directing and her husband, scriptwriter and filmmaker Paul Mayada Berges helping with the story – and that length of time illustrates perhaps that not everyone was convinced it could be done successfully.

As with the film, it is quietly confounding expectations and is again bridging a gap that still needs to be filled.

“Even if you know the film, love the film, you can never know what to expect. That’s why you have to see the show,” rasped Chadha. “People coming out of the theatre are saying: ‘OMG, what is this journey I’ve been on’.

“There are Sardars (Sikhs) going who never go to the West End.

“There was this Sardar couple who told me: ‘We never thought we would see something like this in our lifetime’.

“It’s my favourite comment so far.”

Well done, Gurinder. You’ve done it. Again!

*Bend It Like Beckham Musical (started May 15) and is in previews until June 24 and runs until October 24, 7.30pm with 2.30pm matinees Wednesday & Saturday, Phoenix Theatre, 110, Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0JP.
There are a number of ticket offers, including £15 seats, please check website and for more information, please see:

‘Bend It Like Beckham’ musical and the sounds of a new Britain

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture