Bollywood Meets the World Cup

On Tuesday we met up in Leicester Square at the TKTS booth and got tickets to a new musical that recently opened here on London’s West End.

The show: Bend It Like Beckham.

Yes, like the movie. With Kiera Knightley. About soccer football.

Skeptical? Yeah, we were too. But why not take advantage of the cheap tickets and see something that you can’t see in States?

2015-07-07 22.23.37-2The ticket came the with warning: “CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE”. We were prepared for all the F-bombs. But then, they were all British curse words that meant nothing to us, so it wasn’t a big deal. There was this older gentlemen behind us, though, that every time a certain word was said would audibly gasp in shock.

The show, like the movie, centers around a British-Indian girl (Jess) who lives in the Southall neighborhood of London, under the flight lanes of Heathrow (UB2 to be exact, as the opening number tells us). The plot of the story centers around the cultural conflict that Jess finds herself in. She loves football and wants to keep playing. But there’s also pressure from her family to adhere to Indian cultural norms. So the story is about how she navigates all those boundaries.

As we’ve talked to people here in London and as we’ve seen things, we’ve made some conclusions: the infusion of Indian culture into British culture is like the infusion of Latin American culture into United States-an culture. Some of the bigger jokes punched on cultural differences and norms. The show actually had some pretty decent comedic sequences and even poked fun at old school musicals with a dream sequence (well, it was either doing that or it was just really cheesy). It’s full of lots of big dance numbers and costumes that were very Bollywood-esque. It was fun, upbeat and visually appealing: lots of color. They also had two “Heritage Singers” who sang traditional Indian melodies with a 21st century musical score backing them up. This created some interesting musical effects.

Something that could’ve been better was incorporating football into the choreography. There was some of it, but for a show 2015-07-07 19.08.59revolving around football, there wasn’t a lot (which, granted, choreographing numbers with footballs would be lot harder than, say, baseball bats). At each performance they have a footballer on stage (from the program is appears they have a pool of players that rotate through performances). The problem with this (for us), is that at times they were the only person on stage actually with a football while all the others danced around them in circles. It just felt a little, like, couldn’t you have tried harder?

The verdict: It was actually pretty entertaining. It definitely had its moments of cheese, but it was an entertaining show. Lots of big dance numbers. Some good moments of comedy. If you were looking for a moving, thought-provoking night at the theatre…this wouldn’t be your show. But if you want something fun, we’d recommend it, especially if you can get tickets for 15 quid.

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