If the mark of a successful musical is heading home with a spring in your step and a mantra running around your head, Britain’s Got Bhangra at The Curve picks up top marks. “I know who I am,” is the takeaway sentiment of this show, repeated over and over by crowd-pleasing hero Twinkle (played by award-winning Bhangra artist Shin, who has achieved years of fame with the band DCS).
Who Twinkle “is”, is a naturally talented singer from rural Punjab who leaves his wife (Jussi), before her wedding henna has even dried on her hands, to build a life for them in Britain as a wide-eyed immigrant in 1977 Southall, west London. While working as a van driver he meets Rocky, a musical friend who convinces him that singing Bhangra ballads for his supper makes more sense, as well as more money, than bad driving.
Wedding gigs lead to stardom for this Bhangra singer, perfectly played by the expressive actor and singer Shin. But as Twinkle’s wonga piles up, so do troubles with his wife, groupie-related wrangles, and soon the inevitable exploitation by a villainous, self-serving music producer (called Shinde) leaves him floundering in the gutter.
Fear not. A happy ending is assured because, remember, this is a man, a singer and a husband, who knows who he is… a good guy with a Punjabi Bhangra groove in his genes.
Charting the evolution of British Bhangra through three decades is an ambitious feat, but one that the visiting Rifco Arts company achieve. This is a sharply scripted, soundly scored production that is genuinely funny. At times it can be genuinely touching too, sweeping from the superficiality of the music industry to the sadness of family life.
The energetic singers and dancers deliver 24 pieces, during two acts – the second faster-paced, denser and more enjoyable than the first. A proportion of the show’s jokes will be lost on non-Punjabi speakers, but the comic genius of the cross-dressing cast, choreographed zimmer frames and a superstar gangsta DJ speaks a language that any musical-lover will understand.
Perched in an ever-present giant dhol drum is an orchestra of dhol, dholak and tabla drummers, accompanying bansuri (bamboo flute), tumbi (one-string guitar) and sarangi (bowed lute) players.
Britain’s Got Bhangra can be seen at The Curve until Saturday October 8.