"Colourful take on classic romance"
by Diane Samuels for remotegoat on 05/05/09

Emily Bronte's nineteenth century novel with its tale of uncontrollable love between soul mates who cannot live with or without each other has proved since it was written to be a consistently rich source material for film, theatre and song.

Visiting the Lyric Hammersmith on its national tour, Tamasha translates the story (literally, for some scenes are peppered with Hindi) into a Bollywood-style musical. Replacing the bleakness of Yorkshire's moors with the scorching sands of Rajasthan, writer Deepak Verma renames Catherine Earnshaw, Shakuntala who bonds immediately with the wild gipsy boy, no longer Heathcliff, now Krishan, brought into her family home by her merchant father. These two grow up together, "joined at the hip", daring to eat wild berries that might poison them and quick to realise that their souls are made of the same stuff even if they are divided by caste. Then the loving father dies, Shakuntala's envious and competitive brother takes over as master in the family home and she discovers the delights of wealth and courtship in the form of the privileged Vijay who offers her a life of devotion with luxury. But the love of Krishan and Shakuntala refuses to die, despite separation and rejection over many years. As the sun burns the desert so burn their hearts as one flame, even unto and beyond death, where Verma finally unites them.

Passion lies at the heart of this story and the desert heat promises to ignite this re-telling, designed with panache by Sue Mayes, who draws on the vivid colours of India to set alight the parched landscape of the raised set. Brightly coloured parasols, banners, shining orbs at moments magically transform the scene to create a visit to the camel race or anniversary party. And you find yourself eagerly anticipating the big dance number to burst the drama into vivid life. The acting has real texture and there are many strong performances, especially from Youkti Patel as Shakuntala, vivid and fresh, and Gary Pillai, steadfast and subtle, as her suitor Vijay. Shamni Aulakh's more self-conscious Krishan doesn't quite meet Shakuntala's depth of spirit and so the heart of the story, their wild love, doesn't entirely flare. As for the big number, pulling out all the stops, it never comes. The lip-synch singing requires a more heightened, camper style, and zingier dancing to make this production dazzle as it promises.

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