Saturday, April 25, 2009

"Wuthering Heights" - April 2009

Classic fiction meets Bollywood in this production of "Wuthering Heights" from Tamasha at the Citizens' Theatre. So just how do you transfer a classic, complex tragic novel to an Indian setting with musical numbers? Intrigued by the possibilities this combination brought up we just had to go.

Taking the key elements from Emily Brontë's tale of wild boy and girl, of love declared then lost and turned sour we follow the tale of Krishan (Pushpinder Chani) and Shakuntala (Youkti Patel) to its inevitible end.

The first slight surprise was when we realised from the programme that the singing wasn't live, but in Bollywood tradition it was lip-synched to recordings from playback artists. Although we'd seen some of the publicity material that detail had passed us by. Statler felt cheated by this (this is from the man who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to musicals in the past), but I felt it didn't detract. The whole point of a musical is the complete suspension of disbelief.

And if you go with the intention of having a good night out at the theatre, that's what you'll have. You won't necessarily leave humming any of the songs, but you'll have seen an interesting adaptation with some particular high points. "The Camel Races" scene was classic Hollywood/Bollywood musical, very reminiscent of the Ascot scene from the film "My Fair Lady". And any scene featuring Ayah (Rina Fatania) was shamelessly stolen by her and her philosophy on life's ills being cured by sugar cane juice.

The tale goes along at a nice pace, although the first act does seem a little long. There were also some technical difficulties with the scenery at the performance we saw and at times the dialogue was a little muffled. Statler, watching with a more critical eye, felt a sense of scale was lacking and it wasn't enough of a spectacle. However, don't be put off by the fusion of East meeting West this is more than the novelty the concept might suggest.

Photo by Manuel Harlan. Used with permission.

Wuthering Heights is at the Citizens' Theatre until Saturday 25th April, then moves to the Lyric Hammersmith and subsequently further dates in England.