Theatre review: Wah! Wah! Girls at the Peacock Theatre
Wah! Wah! Girls
Peacock Theatre, Portugal Street, WC2
New Sadler’s Wells production Wah! Wah! Girls, staged at its West End outpost the Peacock Theatre, is a British Bollywood musical that transports the exuberance of Indian cinema to a London setting.
Intended as a celebration of the capital’s “exhilarating diversity” (Sadler’s chief Alistair Spalding), the show is rooted in a melting pot community signalled by a population of hoodies, Polish handymen and grumpy Indian shopkeepers.
You may also want to watch:
In the midst of this East End enclave is the Wah! Wah! Girls dancing club run by Soraya (the excellent Sophiya Haque) and her son Kabir (Tariq Jordan). The show centres on Kabir’s love for new dancer Sita (Natasha Jayetileke) and her conflict with Soraya.
Improbably, the clash is about dance styles. Soraya, a former traditional Mujra dancer, an elegant, sensual form danced by courtesans to entertain wealthy men, is offended by Sita’s fast-paced Bollywood moves.
- 1 'Extreme' noise complaint as 150 gather for Islington party
- 2 Statue of Philip Noel-Baker replaced in Islington after 35 years
- 3 Meet the owner of the Camden Passage shop window where nothing is for sale
- 4 Elderly woman robbed of precious watch in daylight Finsbury Park incident
- 5 What do smoking and People Friendly Streets have in common?
- 6 'We can do better': Islington Society calls for rethink on Barnard Park plans
- 7 Almost 5,000 Islington people pinged by Covid app in one week
- 8 New Lidl to open in Finsbury Park's Arts Building next week
- 9 Islington and Camden police chief to leave Met after 29 years
- 10 Two men jailed for life after double murder
The result is a series of dazzling numbers that draws on both, from evocative flashbacks to Soraya’s youth in India, to a riotous scene where Sita and Kabir proclaim their love for each other while being spun around the stage atop shopping trolleys.
The conflict reaches fever-pitch in a spectacular dance-off between the two women, with the electronic score by Niraj Chag, which is used alongside classic Bollywood tunes, coming into its own, chopping and changing as the focus switches between the two.
In her programme notes, writer Tanika Gupta describes the typical western view of Bollywood as “high melodrama and idealised romance punctuated by over-the-top songs and dances”.
While she goes on to say there is much more to it, her attempts in Wah! Wah! Girls at elements of social commentary tend to fall flat.
It’s the melodrama, the dark secrets, unlikely twists, idealised love-at-first-sight and above all the over-the-top dance numbers that make the show so enjoyable.