Wah! Wah! Girls @ Theatre Royal Stratford East – A Review

Wah! Wah! Girls is the new Bollywood-inspired musical from writer Tanika Gupta and songwriter, directed by Emma Rice, which runs at the Theatre Royal Stratford East until 29 September.

wah wah girls theatre royal stratford eastThe story starts with matronly Bindi (Rina Fatania) settling herself into an over-stuffed chair to watch some of her favourite Bollywood movies, but as she watches the screen melts away and she finds herself right in the middle of the action – queue a glittering Bollywood extravaganza which plays itself out on the streets of Stratford, where the  brightly coloured saris of mujra dancers clash with the drab storefronts.

All the traditional movie tropes are here – the cruel and abusive father, the stern but ultimately loving mother figure, the dashing romantic lead and the innocent girl. Gupta’s script puts all of these characters into a sequin-covered silk bag, shakes them up and out spills romance, intrigue and  murder, all of this set to a soundtrack that’s familiar to anyone that has walked the streets of this part of London, including traditional Indian ballads, bhangra, reggae and pop.

Wah! Wah! Girls is a delightful headrush – OK it’s not the most challenging production to appear on Stratford’s stage but it is unapologetically colourful, joyful and heartfelt – a perfect antidote to the rather dark mood that seems to have settled on the area now that the Games have departed, leaving it’s fraying pink signs and fluttering banners behind. There are some lovely touches that add to the delight of this musical, probably added for no other reason than they could – the front end of a London bus miraculously appears on the stage not once but twice, there are pigeon ‘puppets’ animated by grey track-suited actors which constantly appear and are shooed away by the actors and more besides.

If I had to pick out the little moment that gave me the widest smile, it is the momentary interaction between an animated urban fox and the goddess – for all its simplicity this tiny scene had the audience ooh-ing and aah-ing (the goddess appears as a benign influence throughout Wah! Wah! Girls – she is un-named but a little research leads me to believe that her wings and beak probably indicate that she is Garuda, the heavenly mount of Vishnu).

Do go and see Wah! Wah! Girls if you get the chance – I’m sure it will put some joy into your heart and also give you a little introduction to some aspects of Hindu culture. Tickets range from £5 to only £24, with performances from Tuesday to Saturday with matinees on both days at weekends. You can purchase tickets at the Theatre Royal Stratford East’s website here.

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About The Londoneer

Pete Stean is a keen blogger, amateur photographer, singer and ham radio enthusiast in his spare time...