Sadler’s Wells, London – until 9 September 2017
This first Anglo Punjabi Sufi musical is a beautiful and fascinating tale – but problems with sound and characterisation affect the production. Based on the legend of Heer Ranjha, ISHQ is a musical filled with dazzling costumes and is visually beautiful and creative to look at – but is let down by poor sound and a script which doesn’t do any of the cast justice.
Ranjha is arrogant and laid back – much to the despair of his family, but with a love of music that eventually leads him to being rejected by his family. Humbled, he meets Heer and soon the pair do fall in love – but can they overcome the obstacles in their way?
The most frustrating thing about Dr.Farooq Beg’s production is the lack of characterisation by the cast who seem to be reading their lines rather than delivering a convincing performance, with many of the lines feeling flat – particular in moments which are supposed to passionate and angry such as when Heer and Ranjha’s forbidden love is discovered.
Perhaps this was down in part to nerves for the cast, but this isn’t helped by the numerous sound difficulties that took place throughout – with microphones not seeming to be working and the balance between music and vocals seemingly off balance. These problems could probably be easily rectified for the other performances and I hope they are for other audiences paying a visit.
There is no denying though that visually the show is a treat with its vibrant costumes, fabulous mixture of traditional and contemporary dancing choreographed by Owen Smith. In particular Declan Randell’s projections help to swiftly change the scene as well as sweep audiences to the Punjab, rich in colour and texture that is beautiful to look at. It is a proper spectacle and celebration.
ISHQ also contains some wonderful individual moments that are particularly creative and imaginative, such as when Ranjha and Heer are wondering through the fields a wonderfully tender moment that is perhaps the most believable scene throughout. When the production focuses on the central characters it is at its strongest.
It is just a shame that judging by the extensive creative and production team, it feels as though too many people have tried to put their own spin on it, making the overall production feel slightly messy. Some solid ideas and a beautiful story but ultimately disappointing.