Saturday, November 22, 2008

"Heer Ranjha (Retold)" - November 2008

Ankur Productions have relocated a classic Punjabi folk tale to modern day Glasgow with a mix of Bollywood glamour, local patter and bags of style. Rather than a haphazard attempt to outline the tale, I think I'm safe enough in saying that it's a typical girl-meets-boy, family-don't-approve type scenario with added religious complications.

Despite impressive performances from Nalini Chetty as socialite Heer and Taqi Nazeer as the troubled Ranjha I found it difficult to buy into the early stages of the relationship, but once they are a couple I became suitably convinced. Indeed, the production is full of terrific performances with Amerjit Deu and Michael D'Cruze as Heer's father and uncle being highlights.

Shan Khan's script has plenty of humour but also addresses some of the issues facing Glasgow's increasingly multicultural young people and the generational divide found all communities. He and the cast also manage to create peripheral characters that ring true to the extent that you actually feel they exist outwith their contribution to Heer & Ranjha's tale.

The movement set pieces are incredibly well put together - the 'dust up' kitchen scene is quite a spectacle, Heer & Ranjha's 'dance' against the wall is stunningly beautiful, and the large scale dance sequences are impressive (helped by some wonderful costumes and music).

But there are problems with the production, some significant. While it didn't feel over long, it often felt slow - in part due to scene changes where any sense of urgency seemed entirely lacking but there also just seemed to be a general lack of tempo for the dialogue scenes. And while there's plenty of energy and passion displayed on stage it never seemed to break down the barriers and infect the audience to the extent that feet were tapping or heads nodding. That's partly due to the extensive width and depth of the stage area at the Tramway which combined with the rather sparse set results in a clinical feeling and keeps the audience one removed from the characters. I'm not sure how flexible the space at the Tramway is but if they could have staged this in-the-round I think it would have drawn the audience in to a much greater extent.

The production doesn't quite reach the heights it has the potential to, but it's certainly an entertaining piece of theatre with some magical moments. And unlike the similar tale of 'Romeo & Juliet' it didn't have me thinking 'Oh, get on with it and die already...'

Heer Ranjha (retold) runs at the Tramway until Sat 29th November
Image by Tim Morozzo used with permission

6 Heckles

Ben Braydley said...

I took the plunge and decided to go and watch Heer Ranja after being fascinated by the Bollywood original.

I won't consider going into too much detail on a reply to a review but here's some general impressions of the production and cast:

PRODUCTION: I felt with the space provided, sets, lighting and sound production were perfectly arranged. And there was some amazing co-ordination in many scenes between the cast (especially in the Kitchen scene). Absolutely brilliant to watch.

PERFORMANCE:
Nalini Chetty (Heer) is arguably the strongest performer out of the cast. Charisma, charm and clarity. One cannot praise her any higher.

Similarly, Michael D'Cruze also stood out equally strong with a very gritty and memorable performance and one enjoyed his characters development throughout the show.

However, one was left rather frustrated after watching Taqi Nazeer's performance (Ranja). He certainly has the look and physique you would expect off a lead performer, however, after starting off the show promisingly, he wilted away as the performance went on. He struggled to keep pace, lacked direction, had weak projection and his perfomance generally gave the impression that he was out of his depth at this level.
This was more evident in his scenes with Chetty which clearly showed the gulf in class between the two main actors. One must question why the director would cast a lead actor who isn't equipped with the basics skills required in a professional production.

Support performances were pleasing. The music and dance performances slotted in perfectly into the scenes and the transitions between them were executed exceptionally.

Overall, set design, lighting and Chetty's performance clearly are the highlights of this show. The show had its moments which did leave the audience at the edge of their seats.

The potential was there, however, not enough to carry it through to be a memorable piece of theatre.

Nevertheless, I shall be keeping an eye on Ankur Productions performances in the future.

**6/10**

Statler said...

Thanks for your comments Ben,

It’s always good to hear different opinions - although I’m surprised that you were disappointed with Taqi Nazeer’s performance as Ranjha. I thought it was an excellent portrayal of an essentially quiet young man stuggling to come to terms with his traumatic situation, and I found his final scene genuinely disturbung.

I would also add that a liittle Googling seems to indicate that he may have been a fairly late replacement for the role - not that I would ever have suspected it from his performance.

Anonymous said...

I went to see this show last night at the Tramway with friends and we all found it wonderful. I didn't feel the production lacked pace or tempo at all. The transitions from one scene to another were particularly smooth and the dance performances were very impressive - especially the kitchen number and the wedding number which was a real cracker. I found all the performances entertaining and the lead pair charming. The uncle and parents were especially good and i felt that the characters never tripped over to stereotypes. It was in fact really refreshing to see issues surrounding certain communities in glasgow brought to the stage without being sugar coated and censored in any way. I dont really know this story and didn't always understand some of the references which are clearly specific to the muslim or sikh culture but still found it engaging. I also thought it looked beautiful and the music was superb. The performance i saw on Sat night was full of energy, verve, colour and pathos.

Anonymous said...

I have read the heckles and I agree with Statler and 'anonymous'.. and Ben to some degree.

I went to saturdays performance, and although full of cliches and some questionable dialogue, I certainly feel that Taqi Nazeer's performance definately stood out especially at the end, which I also found disturbing. I was sittting, along with my wife, near the back, I had no problems with his projection - In fact i would argue that his, Michael D'cruz's and Amerjit Deu's projection were superior to anyone else in the cast. And if you do a little goggling and read the Herald's Interview you'll realise he has stepped in at the last minute - I think his performance along with Nalini's was remarkable. But I feel Nalini's performance was too similar to what she showed in Yellow Moon, however i do feel they are similar in character. But for me Taqi's stood out. Keep in mind he is still at the RSAMD.

The set was fantastic, transitions could have been better but hey.. im not complaining. Dancing was magnificent, kitchen scene, wedding scene and the dance on the wall, was just breathtaking.

The end scene was just brilliant. Taqi and Nalini did a fantastic job.

Overall I would give it 8/10.

Hammy66 said...

I have been reading these posts about Nazeer with interest.
I think as an unestablished actor as a lead in a big show, you tend to be under the watchful eye of many a' audience member to see what you can bring to the table.
There was a few holes in his performances (notably, his initial scenes with Chetty). I think his character never really developed through the piece. From talking to many of my friends who have seen the show over the week, their reaction to him specifically was mixed in regards to his delivery and performance.
I'm sure this will develop over time though but I really don't think he was ready to fill the shoes of a lead, whether it was a last minute replacement or not.

My personal favorite performances were from Amerjit Deu and also Manjet Sumal who played a number of multiple roles.

Anonymous said...

It's all personal opinion - I thought the guy playing Ranjha was good - but his role was underwritten at times. If it had been fleshed out more i'm sure he would have been able to bring more to it and to be honest i thought he had great presence and enjoyed his performance as i did the rest of the cast. I don't think its fair to blame him for the way his part was written! It was a lively production and although the writing was a bit much at times i thought the show was very entertaining and a great treat for the asian audiences who were out in force the night i went and seemed to really love it.