The music of Nadim Naaman and Dana Al Fardan’s Broken Wings remains strong, but the musical around it feels slightly disappointing at the Charing Cross Theatre
“I remember the beauty of home”
I was a big fan of the concept album of Nadim Naaman and Dana Al Fardan’s musical Broken Wings and sad to have missed its debut in the West End as a semi-staged concert due to being on holiday. So news of its arrival as a fully-fledged production at the Charing Cross Theatre was most welcome, especially considering how rare it is to see work from Middle Eastern writers or indeed about Middle Eastern subjects.
Which makes it a bit of a shame that Bronagh Lagan’s production doesn’t quite catch flight to match that soaring score. Based on Lebanese writer Khalil Gibran’s novel of the same name, Naaman’s book details an epic love story between Selma and Gibran in turn-of-the-century Beirut, narrated by a ruminative older version of Gibran. And since he is feeling ruminative, you can tell that it hasn’t necessarily been plain sailing.
There are elements that work well: the interaction of Gibran’s older and younger selves (Naaman and Lucca Chadwick-Patel respectively) is richly resonant. And Noah Sinigaglia’s Selma is a beguilingly progressive presence, even if you might wish the writing went further to explore contemporary women’s rights. And the rich hues of Nic Farman’s lighting are a continual visual treat.
But there’s a lot that is challenging. Despite the use of a revolve, the in-the-round staging is an awkward fit here. And structurally, the pacing lacks the vibrancy to make you sit up and pay note, the overall feeling ending up curiously old-fashioned. When the music kicks in though and such high-quality singing fills the air, there’s the real sense of potential, to rework and refine this into something more affecting.