Bend It Like Beckham – Phoenix Theatre

Hounslow Harriers in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical. Photo credit Ellie KurttzIn more recent years, films have served the premise for a number of musicals. Some have become triumphant with their success, such as Billy Elliot and Once. Bend it Like Beckham does not fit into this category by any means. It had a lot of potential, with the storyline centring around our country’s most loved sport and the film having success with nominations at the BAFTAs and Golden Globes. However, this is diluted by the forgettable music and cheap humour.

Howard Goodall’s songs lie on the same standard as England’s penalty-taking skills; hit and, most of the time, miss, with complete lack of catchy ‘hooks’ as well as lazy lyrics from Charles Hart. The need to bring back unnecessary reprises is one of the key reasons why the show drags to nearly three hours long.

Paul Mayeda Berges’ script does not have the same wit and quick-fire humour as the film. Berges seems to presume that over-exaggerating the Indian stereotype can be funny and that all Londoners are supposed to sound like Essex ‘chavs’. Instead, at times, his script and Gurinder Chadha’s direction become uncomfortable for the audience as we question whether his ‘jokes’ are supposed to be funny or incredibly insensitive.

Some positives, however, were Preeya Kalidas’ vocal performance, unsurprisingly, and Jamal Andreas’ light-hearted sense of humour. Nonetheless, Jamie Campbell Bower’s leading performance disappoints, with a bland vocal showcasing little vibrato or dynamic, lacking the potential he once had in his breakthrough performance in the film version of Sweeney Todd.

Some films are supposed to work as musicals. However, if you have good memories of the film version of Bend it like Beckham, don’t bother with the show…

Reviewed by Jack Grey
Photo: Ellie Kurttz

Bend It Like Beckham is currently booking at the Phoenix Theatre until 24 October 2015. Click here for tickets