Saturday, July 12

Singapore, Bali and Malaysia

12th July 2003 - London (LHR) to Singapore (SIN)
14th July 2003 - Singapore (SIN) to Bali (DPS)
19th July 2003 - Bali (DPS) to Singapore (SIN)
21th July 2003 - Singapore to Johor Bahru, Malacca and Kuala Lumpur (by land over causeway)
25th July 2003 - Johor Bahru to Singapore
30th July 2003 - Singapore (SIN) to London (LHR) (originally 26th)

Sunday, March 30

Bombay Dreams

Right, let’s get the important stuff out of the way. Priya or Rani? Hmmm. Tough question. Priya was the typical lead - smart, beautiful, sweet and fit fit FIT. On the other hand Rani (or at least her clone, see later) was slightly flabby (although I think that was a part of the story), but boy she could dance in a way that could make up for it. Oh, and they both outshone anyone else on the stage that night. Nope. Too hard – I would shakalaka with either of them.

Ok, now that particular question is out of the way I can get to the show itself. For those who do not already know Bombay Dreams is about Akaash (Raza Jaffrey) our typically youthful hero from the slum, yearning for what he tells us he was born to do – to become a Bollywood star, that is. Luckily for him, he meets the world famous director Madan (Dalip Tahil) in jail (where else?) who sees the "tingle" in Akaash and gives him the chance that he needs to achieve stardom. Of course, Madan has a beautiful daughter, Priya (Preeya Kalidas), who has an equal yearning to follow her father’s footsteps and become a world famous director. She, in turn, is engaged to be married to Vikram (Ramon Tikaram), the lawyer that says he wants to save the slum (that Akaash happens to come from) from being demolished to make way for a multiplex. This has all been brought about by JK (Raad Rawi), boo hiss etc, who by wild coincidence is the source of everything bad in Bombay including, in an amazing fit of irony, the coercion of directors into giving him their distribution rights. but hey, I am sure you saw that coming. Throw in a eunuch best friend (Sweetie - Raj Ghatak), a temptress (Rani - Sophiya Haque, played by her understudy last night) and a light hearted distraction in the form of a very Smita Smittenesque Kitty the gossip columnist (Shelly King), and you end up with a story that is a largely predictable (if you were not able to read between my lines), but all the same enjoyable, implementation of the love, conflict and drama that is standard Bollywood flare. The difference here, however, is that it is standard Bollywood flare on the stage.

Technically, the show is quite a mixed bag. Lighting was a bit dubious (I caught a few stray shadows more than once), while the sets were very effective in their simplicity. Having said that they did have something I have never seen on the stage before – an ever changing pool/fountain water piece largely put in, I assume, for the wet dancing scene. This made up for the inadequacies of the direct lighting by causing elaborate reflections to be cast on the set. I was particularly impressed by the appropriateness of its use as it would have been far too easy to over or even misuse it. I would like to say that this resistance to overuse visual gimmicks was a trend throughout, but I do feel that they may have misjudged the level of use of certain other mechanical devices. Costume was impressive, and it is commendable that the production team chose to remain authentic rather than take the easy route and caricature Indian/Western dress (and as an aside I was very impressed by the ability of some of the ensemble to dance in high heels).

Moving on to the script, I must admit I do not think Meera Syal spent much time in thinking up the story, cheesy lines or the clichéd gags. Having said that, it is arguable whether she had to or not – in the course of the show nobody ever pretends that this is anything more in this respect than what Bollywood usually is. What we end up with is a largely adequate plot, and for those of us that have seen more than one Indian movie more of a distraction than anything else.

Choreography was excellent. It can't have been easy for this particular aspect to have been translated from screen to stage without losing that Bollywood magic, but it was done and done well. The semi-original score was also very good and of standard theatrical fare albeit with a Bollywood twist - and even though you would expect the musical bites and covers from the classical Bollywood scores, it was still quite surprising how effective this fusion turned out to be. Lyrically the songs were ok - if there was ever an English song version of a Bollywood flick, I would expect the lyrics to be as cheesy and clichéd as this was. Cheesy and clichéd in a good way, mind.

Again, I am in two minds about the performance last night. Due to the physical nature of the show many of the songs were not sung live, which is only acceptable if all the performers mime them well enough. Unfortunately this was not the case, and even the leads were caught out a few times with their mouths shut or miscued. Our compensation for this was the excellent acting and dancing by all of the main cast (as you may have noticed I especially appreciated the Rani understudy), who all managed to keep it in top shape without having to rely on numerous takes to get it right unlike their true Bollywood counterparts have to. Jaffrey was charming, I fell in love with Kalidas, and was (almost) tempted by the Rani understudy. I hated Rawi with a passion, but luckily King was there to distract me with her extremely apt and funny overacting.

On the other hand, and this is my biggest gripe of the show, the main cast were almost let down by the ensemble, who at times missed their cues and timings and generally slightly tarnished the polish the rest of the show had. I am guessing the cause of this is that there is just not enough Asian talent out there to fill the demands placed by a show like this, but who knows - maybe this will change in the future? I certainly hope it does.

So, should you all go see it? Hmmm, well that's the second tough question I have faced in this little review of mine. If you are only going to watch one theatre production this year, I would advise you to consider something else and maybe choose something that would do justice to the format. If you are going to watch more than one or you have seen everything else on offer already, well then give it a shot. If you do decide to see it, do not expect something that will necessarily use theatre or the Bollywood theme to their full potential but instead expect something that makes a decent attempt to and on the whole suceeds in making them compliment and accentuate each other. This is a show that’s more than the sum of these two particular parts, and I can say that you will all find something here that you may never in either a standard Bollywood flick or theatre production. The original cast rotates pretty soon, so now is the ideal time to go.


Hmmm.. I wonder who they’re referring to when they sing "Shakalaka Baby"....

Originally posted as spammy (7382nd post) on the ALMBs.

Saturday, March 1


1st March 2003 - Stansted (STN) to Rome (ROM)
4th March 2003 - Rome (ROM) to Stansted (STN)