Ishq at Sadlers Wells
As London’s first Anglo-Punjabi Musical, there’s been a bit of buzz surrounding Ishq: The legend of Heer Ranjha. The script is based on one of the most well-known Punjabi legends, telling the tragic story of two lovers who stand against their families and societal conventions to be together.
The cultural significance of this tale cannot be denied. The attempt to marry both Anglo and Punjabi cultures together is, particularly in this political climate, a very important celebration of multiculturalism. However, even though Ishq has its heart in the right place, there are instances here where this concept falls short, creating something of a tonal jumble.
The performances are generally strong, and the dancing and choreography are enjoyable to watch. The progression of the fight scene is particularly dynamic and the drumming, used at intervals to distract from the arrangement of the set on stage, is polished and plenty of fun. However, the switches from Eastern to Western music are often jarring; rather than blending of the two, they are simply squashed together side by side, with little to no attempt to lead up to these changes in any way.
The endeavour to turn Kaido into something of a fun pantomime villain during his musical number is brave, but ends up at odds with the tragic nature of the piece. Meanwhile, the script tries to deal out subtle statements about the patriarchy, but only sometimes succeeds. There is a song about how morally condemnable honour killings are that might have been powerful had there been any resolution to the horror of that situation. Instead, at the suspenseful end of the number, the curtain drops for intermission and afterwards the show goes on as if that confrontation had never happened. Even though the nature of the legend and the wider socio-political statements at the heart of the musical are vital, these transgressions cannot be ignored.
Photo: Lidia Crisafulli
Ishq was at Sadlers Wells from 7th until 9th September 2017.