A Shiny Life For Me!

a personal review blog by Bianca

Vanara – The Legend – The Musical

25 October 2021
Hackney Empire
1.0 out of 5.0 stars

Last week I went to see the world premier run of Vanara at the Hackney Empire. Advertising and social media buzz had made this production seem like a new and exciting addition to the world of musicals.

Unfortunately, as is often the case, my expectations were sorely disappointed. The world of Vanara is a re-telling of a very chewed up theme, two lovers kept apart by rivalling factions. Romeo and Juliet meets Westside Story meets The Lion King, but with the addition of fire. Lots of fire.

The plot is quite simple, there are two tribes of people left in the world, the Kogallisk, who possess the secret of making fire, and the Pana, who want the fire. Both tribes absolutely hate each other, but rely on a yearly trade to survive. In between these tribes is the mythical advisor Oroznah, who is not just visually reminiscent of Rafiki, but also speaks in a similar fashion. The Oroznah foretells a natural catastrophe, the two heirs of the rivalling tribes fall in love, there’s lots of talk of the importance of fire.

That’s basically the entire plot of the two and a half hour long musical. None of the songs were particularly memorable, the only saving grace in my book was the amazing dance choreography and the diversity of the cast. Were this a dance show without any singing, it’d have been a much more enjoyable experience. The cast did give it their all, they just didn’t have much to work with in this flat, brainmeltingly slow musical that kept pushing its characters to restate their thoughts and feelings again and again and again and again with little plot progression and an overly dramatic focus on how important fire is in this society.

There is nothing ground-breaking, surprising, or even interesting about Vanara. If you’d let a group of people watch the first ten minutes and then ask them to take a guess as to how the show will end, there’d be a high accuracy rate and likely some more entertaining alternate endings thrown in.

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