London ball

Beyond Bollywood – Peacock Theatre, London

Review: Serafina Cusack

Back in London after seven years at the Peacock Theatre, Beyond Bollywood is a complete visual spectacle. From the first seconds of the show, you’re bombarded with glittering dresses, elaborate sets, and grand group numbers. It’s mostly fantastic. All the dancers give it their all and it’s shameless joy. The show immediately leans into the over-the-top aesthetic of Bollywood movies and there are costume changes for every number.

Shaily, a dancer from Munich of Indian origin, takes a trip to Mumbai to rediscover her roots in Indian dance. Once there, Shaily finds herself choreographing the same Western fusion as before, but this time all the credit goes to Bollywood hit choreographer, Raghav. After watching the barrels of their stalled careers, the two (and their comedic best friends) go on a massive tour of India and learn all the rich folk dances the country has to offer.

Unfortunately, even though the show offers the opulence of classic Bollywood, it fails to deliver the glossy finish. Cues are missed, awkward time stamps are improvised, props are discarded, and the costumes, designed by Prajakta Gore, swing wildly between some of the most intricate garments you’ll see on stage to flimsy, plastic, and poorly novelty. adjusted disguises.

Sahil Mayenkar brings a consistent performance as the sometimes unlikable Raghav, and Sudeep Modak brings true comedy as the chauvinistic sidekick Ballu. Goral Joshi has neither the time nor the space to shine in his role as childhood friend Emma. When allowed to dance, or even talk, she excels but is often interrupted by Ballu.

Unfortunately, Alessandra Whelan, who plays lead character Shaily, is regularly outclassed by her peers, whom she struggles to keep up with in both her acting and dancing abilities. Whelan chooses to play Shaily with all the wonder and cultural sensitivity of an 8th grader on a school trip to Paris and it’s impossible to believe anyone would find her endearing enough to immediately hand over the keys to a Bollywood production to large scale. It’s a mistake to have her dance alongside her late virtuoso mother towards the end of the show. She is visibly over-danced in what should have been a tender legacy moment. Pooja Pant, who plays Shaily’s mother, is by far the best dancer on the show. Much like her character, Pant is fascinating, and the production would benefit greatly if she stayed on stage longer.

Beyond Bollywood is written, directed and choreographed by Rajeev Goswami, and it looks like he may have bitten off more than he can chew. Goswami’s choreography is lively and enjoyable to watch, if not perfectly executed, but the writing and directing leave a lot to be desired. The script is stilted and paper-thin, skimming through any hint of character development and heralding huge plot points between the numbers.

The dancing really shines in the second half as the friends travel across India learning various folk dance forms. For a storyline that takes a tough pro-traditional, anti-merger stance, there’s a lot more western-style dancing going on than you might think. Beyond Bollywood is a spellbinding dance performance devoid of any typical Bollywood finish.

Until September 3, 2022