Friday, 10 July 2015

REVIEW: Bend it like Beckham at the Phoenix Theatre

This musical is incredibly dated, I am shocked to see how many stereotypes are used in the production. It is 2015, the vast majority of the public do not find stereotypes funny anymore. We have moved on, we do not need every single indian character to be the comic relief and a cultural stereotype that is 10 years out of date. And why were all the female footballers butch women? This is dated and actually quite offensive. I find it very lazy that the writers and director have gone down this route because its not what we need in our society and its incredibly unimaginative. Its a shame because the aunts in the show had quite a few funny moments, but because every single indian character was matched up to them in the writing it meant nothing was funny. 

The production did not know what it wanted to be, for a start I began thinking it was set in 2015 but there was one reference mentioning it was 2001. The design aspect of the show was very confused, you can’t modernise a musicals design and show no aspect of 2001 but then expect an audience to believe it is. When you’re asking people to invest their imaginations into a world you’ve created, you can’t confuse them with the design. 

Miriam Buether seems to have found a use for the set of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. The basic design of the set is exactly the same, I’m shocked that someone can be so unimaginative and take the design of another musical and edit it slightly to fit the production they’re working on. No originality. 

The music is forgettable, the only memorable lyric, ‘Girl Perfect’, doesn’t make any sense as a song and its only memorable because they repeated it through out the whole performance. The book was poorly put together, practically the entire plot was packed into the first act and that left the second act to be boring and one of the slowest moving things I have ever seen on stage. 

Gurinder Chadha’s direction was tragic, never have I seen something so messy on stage. This is her first stage project, and please let it be her last. When you have a director who has no idea how to work in theatre you get something like this. A terrible, unfunny, boring, unimaginative and failure of a musical. 

The choreography was so obvious and uninteresting, Aletta Collins version of
integrating football with dancing is putting a professional footballer doing some simple tricks in the middle with girls running around her doing squats for a whole number. Sounds great, ey?

Natalie Drew plays Jess as an innocent and deprived teenage girl, she is a fantastic actress but unfortunately not enough to save this production. Her blossoming friendship with Lauren Samuels (Jules) was nice to watch and a much needed break from the exhausting, boring and outdated stereotypes. Samuels was actually one of the performers in the production who managed not to play her role as a complete stereotype, very close to Kiera Knightley’s performance in the film. 

Sophie-Louise Dann plays Paula, Jules mother, and she is one of the most natural comedic actresses I have ever had the pleasure to watch on stage. I didn’t feel much when she was singing her solo in act 2 failed to capture the emotion (I can’t remember the name of the song, even from looking at the song list in the programme. As you can tell, left a very strong impression). However, on the comedic side of things she was fantastic. 

Jamie Campbell Bower as Joe was the typical good looking, nice boy. Again, not much different to the film. He has a fantastic voice and is a good actor, sometimes not at the same time but he definitely was one of the stronger points of the production. Still, not enough to save it. 

Preeya Kalidas played up to the stereotype quite well, she was funny and her vocals were stunning. The leads in this show have been cast perfectly but the director has tried to hard to make a carbon copy of the film on stage. With added glitter. 

I would love to say that this story has potential somewhere, but it doesn’t. There is absolutely no reason this film should have been turned into a musical and after seeing the production I believe this even more. Its a tragic attempt of a musical and I am shocked that something like this has got past the stages of workshops. This should have been abandoned years ago.

Review by Mark Swale


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