Broken wings – REVIEW

Broken wings – REVIEW

Theatre Royal Haymarket, London 

★★★★★

Broken Wings

Theatre Royal Haymarket, London

 

Seen August 1st, 2018

Reviewed by Mark Sykes

★★★★★

Having followed the development of the new musical Broken Wings for quite a while on social media, then obtained the concept album back in May and watched the YouTube recordings in awe of the talent on display, it was with much excitement that I visited the Theatre Royal Haymarket on Wednesday 1stAugust 2018 for its world premiere performance.  It was a stunning portrayal of a story about love, heartbreak and tragedy, and which leaves a lasting impression on the audience.

I’ll admit that until Broken Wings surfaced as a new musical in development, I had never heard of the poet Kahlil Gibran, the third best-selling poet of all time.  But having worked in Saudi Arabia for 6 months (in part wanting to learn more about their culture), Broken Wings once more sparked my interest in the Middle East and has provided an opportunity to learn a bit more about the culture of this region.

The show has a simple stage setting – the rear half has the orchestra sat either side of a raised element.  In the first act, the older Gibran (supremely played by co-writer Nadim Naaman) is positioned here with his writing table as he narrates his story and watches on as his younger self (played by Rob Houchen) enacts his early life in the front half of the stage.  The first act introduces all of the main characters and provides the setting for Gibran and Selma to meet and form a relationship that ultimately can never be consummated.  I have seen Rob Houchen a number of times this year and he always impresses with his dynamite vocals.  He has great chemistry with Selma, portrayed by the wonderful Nikita Johal.  Nikita deserves special praise as she stepped-up from the ensemble at short notice to take on the lead role, and she performed it with a great sense of assurance and poise.

Selma’s father, Farris (Adam Linstead) and the Bishop (Irvine Iqbal) also provide focal elements of the story.  Whilst Farris can see the blossoming relationship between his daughter and Gibran, he is persuaded by the Bishop to give her hand in marriage to another – and sets in motion a sequence of events that will lead to heartbreak and tragedy.  Whilst Selma is married off to a philandering man she doesn’t love, her friendship with Gibran is rekindled via a series of illicit meetings.  Ultimately though, Selma’s pregnancy and subsequent events (no spoilers here!) provide a devastating conclusion to this love story.

The second act has the staging partly reversed, with the older Gibran at the front of the stage providing narration for some of the scenes playing out on the raised element.  I found this actually worked quite well; the lack of endless scenery transitions kept the story front and centre and continued to flow seamlessly.  Having the orchestra on the stage was nice to see (and neatly dressed in appropriate attire) and was a positive enhancement.  The only negative of the staging was the use of smoke/dry ice.  I felt it didn’t add anything to the story or atmosphere; indeed there were occasions when events taking place in Farris’s garden were almost overwhelmed by the smoke (albeit this was less obtrusive in act 2).

The music, lyrics and orchestrations are really excellent and I would heartily recommend people buy the concept album if you don’t already have a copy.  The stand-out songs are Selma and Spirit Of The Earth.  This latter song (and it’s reprise as part of the Finale) is probably the highlight of the entire show.  It brings the entire cast front and centre in an electric-charged performance that brings a lump in the throat; it compares equally to any of the big numbers in the likes of Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, etc.  Here though, I have to single out Soophia Foroughi who provides the lead vocals for this song and also plays Gibran’s mother.  I am in love with this voice!  If you watch the YouTube video of Spirit Of The Earth you’ll understand, but Soophia is one of those artists that sound even better live.  A simply supreme vocal performance.

The entire cast, including ensemble members, were excellent; there wasn’t a single weak link.  Joe Davison (Conductor) and the orchestra were also faultless; and again it was so nice to be able to see them in a West End show.

As for Nadim Naaman and Dana Al Fardan, they have created something special.  I so much hope that the four days at the Theatre Royal Haymarket is just the beginning for the stage show.  It deserves an opportunity to grow and mature, and to perhaps come back bigger and better.  Yes, I learned a bit more about Middle Eastern life, but people shouldn’t let it’s Lebanese origins put them off wanting to see this.  Miss Saigon has a love story at its heart, with Vietnam as its setting; Broken Wings has similar parallels (as do many other successful musicals).  Put any prejudices to one side and watch and listen to a genuine love story; you will be rewarded well.

Click here to see Hiba Elchikhe (Selma) and Rob Houchen (Younger Gibran) perform I know Now from the Broken Wings original concept album.

If you don’t already have the concept album, you can order it here.

Getting the better seats without breaking the bank

I’ve dared to reveal my deepest theatre ticket secrets!

The west end can be a wonderful and memorable night out however it can all add up becoming very expensive. A large amount of this cost will be the theatre tickets themselves. Many people do spend a lot of money on theatre seats and obviously that is how the west end thrives and continues. It is a business! However I believe everyone should be able to enjoy the theatre so this particular blog post will aim to arm you with the correct websites, apps and information for when you need to save the pennies but still want to see the arts.

I’m about to reveal my deepest secrets so pay attention!

Over my years of going to the theatre on a student budget I have become an awful lot savvier and very rarely spend over £40 on one seat unless it is something incredibly special. One of my main go-to apps is TodayTix. They do brilliant deals and never sell restricted seats. They have a fabulous selection of seats pretty much all of the time to suit every budget. Another great thing they do is daily lotteries for a few select shows and ‘rush’ tickets which range from £15-£25 in price.

Let’s start with the lotteries. Every day the lotteries are live from midnight. Currently the shows include Dreamgirls, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Young Frankenstein and Kinky Boots. Matinee lotteries close around 10:30am and lotteries for the evening shows close at 3:30pm. You enter for that day’s show and are notified 2 to 4 hours before the performance. This option is only great if you live in London or within an hour on the train but it is still a good way to get nice, affordable seats, normally front row!

The ‘rush’ tickets are a little different but still provide great seats at affordable prices. This ticket option gives you more notice as they become available to buy through the app at certain times of the day (typically 10am or 10:30am, depending on the show). It is a first come first serve system and seats vary depending on what is available on the day. There is a large variety of shows though which currently include: Mary Stuart, Girl From The North Country, The Birthday Party, 42nd Street, The Ferryman, Royal Shakespeare Company, Motown and The Woman in White.

Another great one in my arsenal of ticket sites is ATG. A bog standard site which is very helpful! The seat plans are fairly accurate and occasionally you find the odd last minute seat reduced in price. Also they have their theatre cards where payment for a years membership means that you get ticket discounts, early sales and much more. There are two types of theatre cards which both look great depending on your budget.

Day seats are also another great last minute option. They do take a fair bit of planning if you are determined to see a show that day! Only certain shows offer day seats and again this is down to availability. Some shows have a designated number which they have available everyday whereas other shows vary theirs depending on how well that show has sold for that day. From my experience, I recommend getting to the box office around 8:30am on a normal show day. If it is a special performance such as a cast change the hard core fans will get there super early, some will even camp out over night to get their hand on a ticket! Day seats are never guaranteed. There have been many a time where the person in front of me has got the last one and I’ve had to go back to the drawing board. A lot of these options mentioned in this blog are great for last minute deals so they always become by back-up plan if day seating isn’t a success. To see whether a certain show offers day seats just head to their official website and it will provide all of the details you need.

A website I use before I make any ticket transactions is SeatPlan. This is a fabulous website especially if you are not familiar with the theatre or seating plan. SeatPlan offers an interactive seat map for the majority of the big theatres in the west end and a handful nationwide. They rely on their members to upload seat reviews and many of them include photos of the view of the stage from that particular seat. These are completely honest reviews which are monitored. So far it has never failed me. They also provide an incentive for their members to review seats with credit which can add up to theatre tokens. Another great way to save money! Currently, you will receive 40p for each photo you upload once your review has been approved. You can start doing this now if you haven’t already! Just head to their website and sign up for free. They also offer great ticket deals through their website so that is also worth checking out.

The website Get Into London Theatre only comes around once a year and is always a good one to know about. I have to be completely honest and say their 2018 selection of shows wasn’t too great this year and I only purchased tickets for one show when normally I go crazy! Each December the website goes live with deals for a range of different shows with tickets for £10, £20, £30 and £40 (great for all budgets) The location of the seats are also normally really good and it tells you just how much you saved. Normally the £69 tickets are the ones reduced to £40, £49-£39 reduced to £30 and so on. Previous years I have been able to get ticket to big shows such as Phantom of the Opera in row D in the stalls for £40. Like I said before, this year wasn’t great but hopefully come December the 2019 selection will be a lot better.

That is about it when it comes to the best sites to use when looking for theatre tickets. I always recommend you stick to the main websites such at ATG, Love Theatre and  TodayTix as you won’t have to pay any commissions fees. Many of the other tickets sites sell legit tickets that comply with the ‘STAR’ standards however they do add an additional fee for using their service. Just be aware of that. Always look around on different websites as the prices will change dependant on the website.

I really hope this has helped you gain a further understanding on how to still see theatre on a limited budget. All of this works for me which is why I was able to see over 70 shows in 2017!

Disclaimer – things mentioned in this blog aren’t always guaranteed and are subject to change at the various company’s discretion. As of the time this blog was published, 16th January 2018, all show information was correct.