Monday, 4 May 2009

Wuthering Heights - Lyric Hammersmith

Wuthering Heights
Original Concept and Book: Deepak Verma
Director: Kristine Landon-Smith
Music: Felix Cross and Sheema Mukherjee

Reviewer: Honour Bayes

From the wilds of the Yorkshire Moors to the hot sand dunes of Rajastan, Tamasha have transported Emily Bronte’s infamous tale into a smooth production which delivers on everything but the wind swept passion of its unfortunate protagonists.

Shakuntala, the headstrong daughter of a spice merchant, is used to being brought back expensive gifts by her father when he returns from abroad. But when Singh brings back Krishan, a street urchin, Shakuntala gets more than she bargained for as the two unlikely siblings form a tumultuous romantic bond. As they grow older their love is put to the test in an Indian society with strict hierarchies and as Shakuntala’s eye begins to wander to the plush neighbouring estate of the rich and charming Vijay, Krishan is gradually pushed aside with tragic results.

Closely following Bronte’s original tale of Cathy and Heathcliff Deepak Verma’s script elegantly mixes Hindi and English in a rich text full of pace, depth and wit. Felix Cross and Sheema Mukherjee’s vibrant and Indian folk score has some delicate treats within it including a stunning three part love song ‘Destiny’ which ends Act 1 on a crescendo of doomed passion and although at first it is hard to acclimatise to the lip synching Bollywood numbers, it is easy to get carried away when moments are as beautiful as this.

Youkti Patel and Pushpinder Chani play our tragic lovers with grace and agility even if they lack the heart and soul of Bronte’s pairing, and the strong ensemble cast play their parts in this doomed classic with charm and humour; echoing some of Shakespeare’s most wonderful supporting parts. Rina Fatania and Adeel Akhtar are particularly touching as Ayah and Yusuf, the servants who take on the parental roles in our wayward hero’s lives.

Kristine Landon-Smith’s production mingles Bollywood spice with Bronte’s quintessentially British story in a show which carries itself with vivid colour but is unable somehow to penetrate Bronte’s darkest moments. The folk musical score is pretty and moving but even the most raucous choral moments seem at times quite staid and gentile. Sue Mayes clean cut dunes and squared off right angles make it difficult to image the tempestuous sands of a blistering hot desert and although the different locals are created with a clever economy whilst also giving a sense of the sumptuous, what is lost is any sense of the wild.

Awash with an overall polish which beautifully represents Bollywood glamour, this is an enjoyable show that will impress visually and carries some wonderful musical moments. But the whole thing feels a little bit too clean and unfortunately this is not a production that will sweep you off your feet, either by a Yorkshire wind or an Indian one.

Photos: Manuel Harlan

Wuthering Heights runs until 23 May 2009
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