Music: Sumeet Chopra
Lyrics: Dougal Irvine
Director: Pravesh Kumar
Reviewer: Rich Jevons
Rifco, are a company celebrated for presenting the underrepresented voices of British Asians. With Laila the Musical they have adapted a tale going back to 7th Century Persia, and the production has been described as a “Romeo &Juliet for the East”. As in the Shakespeare classic, the lovers – Laila and Qays – fall in love despite the family feuds preventing them from being accepted as husband and wife.
Indeed, the show starts in a contemporary world where a young girl faces a forced marriage despite having a sweetheart already. For her, the tale of Laila is an escape from her woes and a dream fantasy that presents a wish fulfilment for her true desires. As we go back in time we meet Qays, a young man from a poor merchant tribe who meets Laila during her forbidden trip to the bazaar. Reece Bahia plays the lovesick youth with verve and veracity as he becomes termed a madman due to his forbidden desires.
The production is presented with great glitz and glamour and the music really works well, making the narrative compelling and the emotional turmoil all the more hyperreal. As well as Libby Watson’s impressive and immaculate design, there are Andy Kumar’s magnificent costumes and superb lighting by Philip Gladwell to depict the ancient Persian story.
No spoilers here; but suffice it to say the original book is tragic while, when we come back to the contemporary world, things are less pessimistic. Laila the Musical is an evocative and emotional tale of love, family, and loss that leaves us with the hope that true love will win over prejudice.
Touring Nationwide | Image: Contributed