Beyond Bollywood at the London Palladium
Beyond Bollywood is a truly awe-inspiring introduction to Indian music and dance, but it should have stopped there. Instead, the flawless movements and fantastic score – part live, part recorded – are overshadowed by the weak story, stilted and awkward dialogue and the computer-generated backdrops that look like they are on hire from the Windows 98 screensaver collection.
The narrative concerns Shaily, a young Indian dancer and theatre manager living in Munich, who is attempting to continue her dead mother’s dance legacy in the face of her father’s drinking and the public’s indifference. In order to “follow her heart and make dreams a reality”, the saccharine platitude that serves as the show’s motto, she embarks upon a trip to India. There, she meets, is exploited by, and finally falls in love with an ambitious choreographer named Raghav, followed all the while by his chief assistant and supposed provider of comic relief. The trio’s journey through the various folk dances of India is genuinely interesting and entertaining, but the group dynamic between a naive and wide-eyed female, a patronising and knowledgeable male and a bumbling clown who – whilst likeable – repeatedly fails to nail his punchlines, soon becomes jarring. There are plenty of chances to investigate India’s history and culture, or the diasporic issues that the main characters face, but anything resembling an interesting exploration is quickly halted in favour of the pantomimic plot-line.
Despite the reductive and predictable narrative, and the often painful melodrama of the dialogue, there is still plenty to enjoy in the show. The group dances are spectacular, matching the poignancy of the solos and duets, and Jennifer Lucien’s costumes ensure that every scene is an explosion of colour. There is a real joy to this production, and it is commendable that this fails to be dampened by the tedious and incoherent theatrical elements. As a dance show, this is a must-see. As a work of theatre, it is less Bollywood, more Bollywooden.
Photo: David M Benett
Beyond Bollywood is on at London Palladium until 27th June 2015, for further information or to book visit here.