Tuesday, June 18

Frankie Goes to Bollywood – HOME Mcr

Rifco Theatre Company delivers two and a half hours of delightful entertaining theatre with this enjoyable show; with comedic stereotypical depictions of characters from the Bollywood film industry, beautiful Indian costumes, energetic dance routines, an original musical score and abundant high-speed costume changes this production is a ‘must-see’.

The story centres on Frankie (Laila Zaidi), a British Indian girl working in the Milton Keynes branch of a multi-chain cinema, serving popcorn with her cousin, Goldy (Katie Stasi). Frankie’s mother (Helen K Wint) passes away leaving her daughter with memories of her career and her longing to break into Bollywood.  Frankie decides to try and fulfil her mother’s ambitions and auditions for a part in a Bollywood film, although never having acted before, and after being offered the part, goes to Mumbai to break into the film industry. But she doesn’t like what she finds there and after her steady rise to fame becomes disillusioned with the industry and all it entails.

The show portrays the typical romantic all-singing, all-dancing tale of Indian protagonists and anti-heroes in a Bollywood film, but also highlights the darker element of the industry including what is expected of young South Asian women to become Indian film industry stars.

The show takes its inspiration from genuine recollections and experiences of the industry of British actors in Bollywood, plus those of Pravesh Kumar (Rifco writer and Artistic Director) and is a breathtakingly multi-coloured journey of romance, beautiful songs, and spectacular dance routines, inspired by the accounts of British Indian women trapped in the spotlight of the largest film industry in the world.

Franki and Goldy are a great double act, their close relationship shines throughout the production and Stasi (Goldy) delivers her one-liners with skill and accurate timing. She is the one with the ambition to succeed as a Bollywood singer/actress, and the story brings to light the fact that her body shape doesn’t conform to what is required in the Indian film industry. On the other hand, Zaidi (Frankie) has all the necessary accoutrements and accomplishes her film industry ambition and becomes a star in the story. And she is the stand-out star of this production, managing a vast amount of script depicting the character’s ups and down, performing comedic interludes and mastering her singing repertoire and she carries it off with aplomb.

That’s not to say the rest of the cast are not equally outstanding in this production; Shakil Hussain as Raju King, the aging male star trying everything to retain his youth and looks, brings an abundance of laughs with apt comedic timing along with Gigi Zahin as Shona, an over-the-top flamboyant choreographer with an equally over-the-top dress sense. Navin Kundra cameos as would-be Director Prem Kapoor and Helen K Wint excellently portrays Malika, the aging film actress on her way out with sincerity and style and she has a beautiful singing voice.

The cast use the small HOME stage to the best of their abilities and praise must be given owing to its size constraints as the dance routines are spectacular and the ensemble deserve due praise; Set Designer, Rebecca Brower recreates the Indian ambience with sets depicting Indian architectural shapes and multiple arches, lanterns and swagged curtains which set the scene well and the ensemble move spotlights around at strategic points in the show and are further utilised to assemble furniture and props as required. Philip Gladwell’s lighting enhances the colours and spectacular sparkly costumes with clever use of spotlights and torches, whilst recognition must be given to Andy Kumar as Costume Designer and Movement Director; the dancers in beautiful, coloured saris performing traditional Indian dance with accessories of yards of silk chiffon blowing in the wind of the large fan is extraordinarily mesmerising to watch.  The songs and music by Niraj Chag recreate the atmosphere accurately with songs and lyrics by Tasha Taylor Johnson.

The concept and book by Pravesh Kumar has transformed superbly to the stage, the strength of which lies in the costumes, the choreography and the sets, the storyline being somewhat clichéd, but it is used perfectly to highlight the plight of young female British Indian actors caught up in the misogyny and sexism which the Bollywood film industry exploits and perpetuates.

All in all, this is an outstanding production which deserves due acclaim; conceived by Rifco Artistic Director, Pravesh Kumar, the show draws inspiration from both Bollywood music and traditional western musical theatre and is designed to appeal to fans of the Bollywood genre and lovers of West End theatre musicals and it has succeeded with this hybrid production.

For those who don’t know, the title of the show is a play on words on the 1980’s British pop group called “Frankie Goes to Hollywood”. 

The show runs from 15th – 25th May and then goes on a national tour to eight locations before arriving at the Southbank, London on 31st July 2024 for three weeks. See www.rifcotheatre.com/live-shows/frankie-goes-to-bollywood for more details.

Recommended age suitability: 8+ 

Content warning: Contains flashing lights and vaping.

Reviewer: Anne Pritchard

Reviewed: 17th May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.