July 8 2015
Lively, deceptively light, and fun, Gurinder Chadha’s first musical is an undoubted success but what are the reasons for its wide appeal and critical acclaim?
By Suman Bhuchar
WE’VE BEEN waiting a long time for the “Bend it Like Beckham” musical as its director, Gurinder Chadha, has talked about the desire to transpose her 2002 hit film onto the stage for a while.
Finally, it’s here at the Phoenix Theatre, London and the film has turned into a fun, feel good family show.
As you enter, the safety curtain is full of British Asian motifs of Southall, Chadha’s homage to her ‘pind’ (village) as she calls it, and even more so when you hear the opening number, “UB2” (about hanging out on Southall Broadway on a Saturday).
It is total over the top melodrama, Hindi movie style: big colours, big emotions, big ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the audience.
By now, we are all familiar with the story, but to briefly recap, Jess (or Jasminder, as her parents call her) Bhamra (Natalie Dew) the sweet innocent looking daughter dreams of playing professional football and her idol is David Beckham, while sister, Pinki (Preeya Kalidas) wants to get married to her boyfriend, Teetu (Raj Bajaj), whose parents, Dad (Irvine Iqbal)and Mum (Sohm Kapila) are seriously snobby.
I have to say, Sohm Kapila looks fabulous in her blue sari and her widow peak hair style makes her resemble a stern Mrs Indira Gandhi.
Meanwhile, Mr & Mrs Bhamra (Tony Jayawardene & Natasha Jayetileke) make a great duo, determined to protect their children from the slings and arrows of the outside world as well as teach them how to make a mean aloo-gobi and ‘full Indian dinner’!
“Bend it Like Beckham – The Musical” is set in the same period of the film which is 2001 before the events of 911 and all the cast are fantastic at their roles. It has been adapted for stage by writer and director, Paul Mayeda Berges, Chadha’s husband and Chadha herself.
The key characters of Jules (Lauren Samuels) her mum, Paula (Sophie-Louise Dann) and coach, Joe (Jamie Campbell Bower) resemble their film counterparts, and are totally convincing.
Chadha, has created a paean to all things Punjabi and Sikh – from the big portrait of Guru Nanak (the founder of Sikhism) adorning the family home, to the wall of blingy Christmas lights the father switches on to celebrate the engagement, the set design created by Miriam Buether is something special.
I really loved the way it seamlessly changes from being Southall High Street one moment, to a football pitch in Yeading or Berlin the next and then the Bhamra famly home. It is ingenious (and you can see the short film by Andy Lawson, a carpenter at the theatre on how the whole set was created http://t.co/8TclioGucU ).
The costumes are by Katrina Lindsay and some of the Indian outfits are from Chiffons – I was told, by Bubs Mahil, (whose store it is and she is also a well-known fashion designer who has worked with Chadha on “Bride and Prejudice“, and was there on the opening night) – are a sight to behold the colour schemes of the pinks and purples of the engagement and the mixing of the red and white at the wedding intercut with the football, is worth the ticket price alone.
Then there are the songs, the lyrics by Charles Hart and the music by Howard Goodall, who along with Kuljit Bhamra has interwoven the distinct Punjabi style with western musical orchestration.
There are many songs to enjoy, such as People like us (Mr. Bhamra’s song), “Glorious”, “Bend it” (on how to deal with Asian parents without lying) and “Mehndi/Heer” number to name a few.
The dancing choreographed by Aletta Collins is energetic and exuberant.
There are many funny lines in the whole show and it is a bit self–referential to the film, nevertheless there are moments of humour, all along the way, and the best bit is the appearance of Posh and Becks at the end of the show (it’s not a spoiler).
It seems like everyone in the Bend It team have worked extremely hard and had great fun putting this show together, and their enjoyment comes across on the stage.
I don’t want to sound gushing, but I have seen the show twice already and it’s definitely should be on your list of things to do this summer holiday!
ACV rating: ***** (out of five)
Pictures: Ellie Kurrtz
‘Bend it Like Beckham: The Musical is on at the Phoenix Theatre, London on Charing Cross Road. Booking Until 24 October 2015. Ticket prices range from £15 – £75 (Prices increase from July 11 – lowest price £19.50)
Box office: 020 7438 9600