BWW Review: BROKEN WINGS, Theatre Royal Haymarket
"Love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation" is one of many wonderful lines by Lebanese-American writer/artist Kahlil Gibran. Broken Wings is a brand new musical adaption of his 1912 poetic novel.
Broken Wings follows protagonist Gibran (played by both Rob Houchen and Naaman at ages 18 and 40 respectively). He returns to Lebanon to continue his studies after spending much of his childhood in America.
He meets and falls in love with Selma (Nikita Johal), the daughter of a friend of his father, Farris Karamy (Adam Linstead). Sadly, their star-crossed romance barely gets to blossom due to the tradition of arranged marriage in their culture.
Houchen plays younger Gibran with ardent youthfulness, hopelessly in love with Selma, delivering a stellar vocal performance. Naaman as older Gibran similarly delivers a passionate performance as he narrates the story and woefully reflects on the events from his youth.
Nikita Johal, who notably stepped into the role of Selma at short notice, has a joyful innocence about her when the audience meets her, but also portrays the great anguish Selma experiences in the various harsh cards she is dealt in her life.
Linstead gives a heart-warming performance as her father, torn between keeping his only daughter at home with him and letting her start a new life.
Karim Bawab, Gibran's friend and confidante, is sweetly portrayed by Nadeem Crowe, in awe of his friend who has seen the world, yet he also brings humour to the part as he tries to bring the infatuated Gibran back to reality.
Naaman and Al Fardan's moving score beautifully marries Middle Eastern and contemporary musical theatre styles. "All I Longed to See", a rousing chorus number about the nostalgia of home, and the emotive duet between Gibran and Selma "I Know Now" are two highlights.
Joe Davison's orchestrations bring out this blending of genres in the ensemble with creative use of string quartet playing in different musical styles. The use of other instruments such as the hammered dulcimer and mandolin help transport the audience away from London to Lebanon.
Nik Corrall's costumes ground the story in the Middle East and Nic Farman's lighting design uses warm tones to depict dramatic sunsets as a backdrop to the emotional love story.
Claudio Rosas and Mira Abad's simple but elegant set uses partial elements of scenery, such as a stained-glass window for a church, to speedily transport the audience to the various locations within the show.
As highlighted in the programme notes, it is surprising that a tale that approaches issues of feminism and tradition in this way was written over 100 years ago and elements of the story still affect many around the world today. It highlights just how much Gibran was ahead of his time, and this musical treatment of his work is a fitting tribute.
Photo credit: Marc Brenner