Bend it Like Beckham (The Musical) Review

Bend it Like Beckham Review

Bend it Like Beckham Cast

Natalie Dew (Jess), Preeya Kalidas (Pinky), Lauren Samuels (Jules), Jamal Andreas (Tony), Sophie-Louise Dann (Paula), Tony Jayawardena (Mr Bhamra), Natasha Jayetileke (Mrs Bhamra), Jamie Campbell Bower (Joe), Raj Bajaj (Teetu).

Bend it Like Beckham Synopsis

Based on the 2002 film of the same name, Bend it Like Beckham focuses on Jess, an Indian girl, living in Southall and her struggle to break free from the traditional values of her family via football. There are also multiple romantic subplots including the wedding of Jess' sister Pinky.

Bend it Like Beckham

I have multiple issues with the piece, the thin plot being a significant one of them. The whole show is very linear, it's a constant (and frustrating) backwards and forwards: will she/won't she play football, will she/won't she get the guy. That's fine if there is ever any real doubt about the ending. Even if you've not seen the film (or forgotten it, like me), the character's fates are blindingly obvious.

I found the majority of the characters to be underdeveloped caricatures, and sometimes offensive ones at that. With a distinct overuse of the word 'innit', the book is incredibly cringe-worthy and tediously repeats variations of the same, mildly funny, joke over and over. Ultimately I didn't care for any of the characters. (Feminist side note: why are female football players always portrayed with a manly 'bravado'?)

Unfortunately, the music isn't much better. While the vibrant bhangra numbers make a refreshing change to the status quo; the rest of Howard Goodall's score is sickly sweet, cliched, musical theatre with simplistic, poor, lyrics by Charles Hart that rely too heavily on repetitive lists to set the scene and convey emotion. Put it this way, I've tried multiple times to listen to the cast recording and have never got past the first act.

This Production of Bend it Like Beckham

The cast was evidently putting their all into what's a relatively energetic piece but was let down by various other aspects of the production.

The set is a highly glossy, sparkly, clinical ensemble that provided very little atmosphere, I found it very bare. Gurinder Chadha's direction was tedious with characters all too often simply being dumped into a scene. I was sat next to a door at the side of the auditorium that characters would needlessly run in and out of to enter/exit scenes. What the heck was this door meant to be? The characters had often already left the scene through a lonely, fluorescent, doorway on stage! It was highly distracting.

The gimmicky football choreography was equally annoying. The tricky stuff is done with a floating ball on a string. At no point did I believe the team could actually play football. There is also a hideously out of place dream sequence involving a Beckham lookalike that will leave you wondering what the heck they were thinking.

My Verdict on Bend it Like Beckham

Overall I found this to be a very showy show with very little substance that dragged on and on. I really wanted to like it but left the theatre oddly bemused by what I'd just witnessed. If you like the film, then sure, take a punt on a cheap ticket (I managed to get an end of row E stalls seats for £15 on the ATG website), but I think most regular theatregoers would find it disappointing. I give Bend it Like Beckham a rating of 2/5

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