“ Address: Theatre Royal Stratford East / Gerry Raffles Square / Stratford / London / E15 1BN / Tel: 020 8534 0310 „
Britain's got Bhangra is the latest offering from Asian theatre group Rifco Arts. Having seen previous productions by them, such as The Deranged Marriage and Where's my desi soulmate? I jumped at the chance of seeing their new play Britain's got Bhangra, which was playing at my local theatre, Theatre Royal Stratford East.
The play charts the rise and fall of Bhangra in Britain through the main character Twinkle. Twinkle is a young man who leaves India in the 1970's to seek his fortune in England, where he believes, like many, that 'The streets are paved with gold'. He finds work ferrying asian ladies to and from work but quickly realises how difficult life is here and struggles to make a living. He misses India terribly and cannot afford to bring over Jassi, his young bride whom he has left behind.
One day whilst he is in the Gurdwara he sings a prayer and is overheard by the other worshippers who encourage him to make use of his talent. Twinkle is quickly snapped up to perform at birthdays and weddings. He soon catches the eye of Ms Sinha (played by Sophiya Haque), the local business woman who signs him to her record label. Soon Twinkle reaches the dizzy heights of stardom, is able to bring his wife to live with him and life is great.
However things start to turn sour when he realises he's been taken for a ride by Mrs Sinha and as she turns her attention to 'newer, modern styles of music' Twinkle finds himself on the scrap heap. Several years down the line Mrs Sinha is on the lookout for new talent and launches a competition called 'Britain's got Bhangra', very much like a certain ITV show recently on our screens. Twinkle decides to give it a go. Can he compete with newer talent? Is there still a market for his style of music?
I love visiting the theatre, and Theatre Royal Stratford holds a special place in my heart. I've been going there since a child and am still always impressed by the ambiance and the original intricate décor inside. Having seen excellent previous productions by Rifco arts, I had high expectations for this show and I was not disappointed! The story was engaging and thoughtful and the cheesy Indian accents worked well and didn't leave me cringing. It was a little predictable at times but this for me did not detract me from it. I can't say that I'm a huge fan of Bhangra music but this show had me tapping my feet!
I was so impressed by the lead, Shin, who played Twinkle. His voice and singing was awesome, full of depth and emotion. In fact at times he brought a tear to my eye! I was so surprised to see such amazing talent in a local theatre. As I said I'm not a huge Bhangra fan, but googling Shin when I got home, I realised that he is the founding member of DCS, one of the biggest Bhangra groups in the UK! All I can say is Wow! - I shall be looking up some of his work in the future! Much of the singing, as you would expect, was in Punjabi but don't let this deter you! My understanding of Punjabi is pretty basic and the audience had a lot of non-asian people who seemed to really enjoy it! In fact they even make the effort to literally translate a Punjabi song into English, keeping the Bhangra beat, but the characters singing then decide that it doesn't really work and reverts back to Punjabi. I thought this was a really nice touch and also incredibly funny.
The remainder of the cast were excellent too, particularly Rina Fatania who played Bibi and also part of the ensemble. Her comic timing was excellent and for me she was one of the highlights of the show. Mrs Sinha was also fantastic and was one of those classic villans that you love to hate!
I was equally impressed by the costumes and the set, which were a visual delight - colourful, beautiful, intricate and glitzy! Song-wise there are several big numbers in the show all vibrant and full of energy. The score was excellent and ranged from traditional Bhangra to bollywood and hip hop. There were live Dhol drummers on stage throughout the show to accompany the singing and the beat of the music just made me want to get up and start shaking my shoulders! Overall I was so impressed by the quality of this play and in my opinion it would not be out of place in the West End.
Unfortunately it took dooyoo several weeks to approve this suggestion and as a result the show has now finished its run in Stratford but it is now touring. If they're playing near you I'd highly recommend it!
Theatre Royal Stratford East, London 17th April - 16th May
Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry 24th May - 6th June
Oxford Playhouse, Oxford 7th -12th June
Watford Palace Theatre, Watford 15th June - 19th June
The Lowry, Salford Quays 21st -26th June
Theatre Royal Windsor 28th June- 3rd July
West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds 12th -17th July
Thanks for reading!