REVIEW: BROKEN WINGS (Theatre Royal Haymarket) ★★

‘Even if born free, we remain slaves of the laws enacted by our forefathers.’

This is a quote from the Lebanese-born poetic novelist, Kahlil Gibran and the premise of the heady and melodramatic musical, Broken Wings. Set in the turn of the century Beirut and based on the biographic poetic novel of the same name, the show follows young Gibran falling painfully in love with Selma, the daughter of his father’s old friend. The pair dramatically tumble deeper and deeper into an impervious love story as Selma is forced into a marriage which ends in heart aching tragedy.

The script is a tad exhausting. Kahlil Gibran led a vibrant life producing legendary work such as The Prophet (1923) and Kingdom of the Imagination (1927). The programme provides a timeline of Gibran’s life, inferring that the plot will be complex and broad, perhaps exploring the ins and outs of his work, cultural background and family. However, the two and a half hours is exclusively focused on his muse and barely explores the fabric of his fascinating character. Essentially, the story could feature any two nobodies falling in love.

The cast are astoundingly strong and weave authoritative and dramatic vocals through the Middle Eastern tinged score. Rob Houchen, who plays young Gibran, is by far the greatest asset this show has to offer. His boyish charms are absorbing but never overworked despite his characters’ dialogue quickly becoming repetitive and unsubstantial. Nikita Johal as Selma is also surprisingly proficient despite stepping into the role a week before the run.

The orchestra are slightly underwhelming as they trawl through one too many ferociously dramatic duets. There is a certain mimicking Les Miserables quality to the piece which doesn’t quite hit when the characters are cardboard cut-out lovers who don’t bring anything new to the stage.

Broken Wings is like watching a film adaptation when you haven’t read the book. There are some exciting and enjoyable moments, but ultimately the story leaves you feeling like you should have done your homework to embellish your experience of this impassioned tragedy.

Reviewed by Nicole Darrell-Batten
Photo: Marc Brenner


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