Review: Wah! Wah! Girls add sparkle to Stratford
Wah! Wah! Girls
Theatre Royal Stratford East
IN A NUTSHELL
The sound and spectacle of Bollywood comes alive in a production that marries colour, humour and drama in equal measure.
Bursting through the entrance to the ground-floor stalls, a bumbling middle-aged lady noisily clatters her shopping trolley down the stairs, accompanied by a male companion.
The raised eyebrows, sideways glances and wry smiles of the spectators in surrounding rows suggest a mixture of responses; some knowing, others confused and a minority left questioning whether such a raucous, late arrival is altogether appropriate for a theatre setting.
But, as will become clear in a few minutes' time, the lively entrance is a characteristic of the lynchpin of the Wah! Wah! Girls production, with the character of Bindi, played by Rina Fatina, leading the Stratford-inspired plot.
As Bindi bids her husband farewell in the opening scene, he warns her not to spend her days watching films.
But as the door closes, she whips out a bag of crisps and the TV remote and settles down for some quality viewing time in front of the box.
As the sounds of Bollywood seep through the screen, the film characters come alive with a sparkling array of dresses, dance and song, and so the second play begins - a play within a play, if you will.
In a nod to its Stratford setting, locals will appreciate backgrounds depicting Vicarage Road and the London Bus while the hub of the action is centred around everyday characters on what one could class as a 'normal' street.
There's the grumpy 'old goat' shop-owner Mansoor, played by Tony Jayawardena, friendly handyman Cal, the role taken on by Delroy Atkinson and dance club owner Soraya, acted by Sophiya Haque.
And of course there's Bindi.
Prompting roars of laughter whether it be through her body language slumped in her armchair watching the action, her sharp on-stage wit with Mansoor or her spontaneous appearances from the back of the stalls, her input steals the show.
The plot centres on mutual disdain between Soraya and Mansoor - the background of which will be subsequently revealed - and the arrival of 17-year-old Leeds whirlwind Sita, expertly played by Rebecca Grant, as the latest addition to the Wah Wah Girls dance club.
Soraya gives the audience an indication of what may be to come when she brands Sita as having "a sense of trouble hanging about her".
But as the northern youngster finds her feet at the dance school, falls in love with Soraya's son, Kabir, played by Tariq Jordan, and becomes a Stratford teen, all seems to be running swimmingly.
That is until her violent brother Anish, acted by Gurpreet Singh, seeks to return her to Leeds as a matter of family honour.
And indeed, the British Bollywood takes a more sombre, thought provoking turn in its second half, exploring themes of trust, loyalty, love and ultimately forgiveness.
Strong performances by the cast both in the form of slick dance routines and acting that was on-point give the intertwining plots depth and believability.
And it is images of vibrant colour and sounds of catchy songs, in both Hindi and English, that will stay with you long after the curtain has closed.
Wah! Wah! Girls will run until Saturday, September 29. Go to stratfordeast.com for more details.