It’s Pakistan’s first Anglo Punjabi Sufi musical. What this provides is a narrative based on a famous legend from the East performed in English by actors wearing glittering traditional dress against a backdrop depicting the beauty of the scenery, architecture and moonlit nights of the Punjab.
Wrapped in gaiety and song and the spirituality of eternal love connections as it is the production nevertheless does not shirk from taking on some of the tough issues still relevant today in some patriarchal cultures, such as honour killings, the determining dominance of male relatives over women and arranged marriages. This is a musical with a message.
Interspersed in the show are dramatic ensemble pieces of about thirty dancers, the choreography of Suhaee Abro and Owen Smith flitting them across the deep Sadler’s stage with grace and brightness. The costumes designed by Samina Aslam are a constant and colourful delight.
Rasheeda Ali, who plays the fiesty heroine, sings beautifully. Ahsan Khan, her lover and an accoladed film and television actor in Pakistan, is a suitably dashing partner for her, providing a performance of feeling.
While there is no worldly, happy ending for the lovers at the heart of this legend, the narrative of which could perhaps be tightened somewhat, the music is always engaging and sometimes haunting. I found I was still humming the last song as I walked home in the rain reflecting that ISHQ had been a transporting anecdote for the gloom of a London autumn evening.
Review by Marian Kennedy
ISHQ tells the tale of two lovers and their feuding families and holds the same place in Punjabi literature as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This exciting musical spectacle features a combination of classical and modern dance with a unique blend of poetry and fusion music.
Set against the spectacular backdrop of the Punjab, ISHQ is a collaboration between Pakistani and British artists which will celebrate unity, diversity and Pakistani culture within the UK.
Producer Huma Beg
Director Farooq Beg
Playwright Mushfiq Murshed
Lyricists Farooq Beg, Owen Smith and Ian Brandon
Composer (UK) Ian Brandon
Composer (Pakistan) Emu (Fuzon)
Choreographer and Dramaturg Owen Smith
Choreographer(Pakistan) Suhaee Abro
Associate Producer Tara Finney
Set Designer, Projections and Lighting Declan Randall
Orchestrator Lawrence Michalowski
Choir Manager Gemma Eves
Music Advisor and Flutist Kansia Pritchard
Sadler’s Wells, Rosebery Ave, Islington, London EC1R 4TN
Thursday 7th – Saturday 9th September 2017