By Ninder Kaur
The multiple award-winning movie turned musical is continuing to score success right through to London’s West End.
Adapted by Gurinder Chadha and Paul Mayeda Berges from the 2002 smash hit film of the same name, Bend it Like Beckham: The Musical follows Jess, a talented young football player torn between following in the footsteps of her hero David Beckham, or living up to family expectations of university, career and marriage.
With the success of the the musical reaching great lengths at the Phoenix Theatre in London, Asian Style Magazine caught up with Natasha Jayetileke who plays Mrs Bhamra in the show stopping production.
What can people expect in the musical?
They can expect a production that appeals to everyone. Everyone can identify with it from parents, to children, females to males- irrespective of their culture and upbringing. You can also expect new music, composed by Howard Goodhall and Kuljit Bhamra who have co-composed some of it together. They can expect a big company with lots of high energy performances as there are 31 of us that are in the show. The production appeals to everyone and portrays a multicultural Britain.Ultimately, it is a feel good show with a beautiful story that you will get swept away in.
How long has it taken to rehearse?
The seed of musical came about 4 years ago. In those four years, Gurinder Chadha has talked about it with producers. There has been three different workshops and this production we started back in March. We have done a month of previews in London and we opened officially to the public in July. It has been a labour of love but it has been worth it.
Tell us about your character?
When the opportunity to work with Gurinder and our choreographer Aletta Collins came about, it was too good to turn down. I was cast just before Christmas and started rehearsing in March.
I play such a bold, brilliant and big character. Playing Mrs Bhamra is a challenge as I’m a little younger and slimmer than she is.
She is a world away from me as a person and that’s what makes it so good playing her. That’s what I love about doing it every night because I have to mentally and physically become this strong incredible character.
How does this experience compare to other theatre roles you have before?
This is a brand new experience, slightly complicated at times because there are various hurdles to overcome such as script issues and just the fact that you have to put a football match on stage has been complicated. Also, this is the oldest character I have ever played. It is also the first time that I have played a mother to two teenage daughters who are quite strong-willed, feisty and strong minded, so I got to explore that relationship with them which has been challenging and rewarding.
Do you follow football?
It is always the rugby on in our house and cricket. With this year’s world cup it was impossible to not get caught up in excitement of the Lionesses. We were 100% behind them and bowed to them after every show and when we found out they were out of the tournament, we were completely devastated.
If you could play another character in the musical, who would it be?
That’s a tricky questions because with Mrs Bhamra there is no one like her. Paul and Gurinder who wrote the script have given me the most fabulous lines and this incredible woman to play. If I had to choose, I would go as far away from my character as Mrs Bhamra and I would play David Beckham. He is the only character in the musical who is a real person, everyone else is interpreting character from the script. To play Beckham would to be imitating a legend. Tom Millen who plays Beckham interprets him so brilliantly. The first time I saw him, I was moved to tears.
How was it working with rest of the cast?
We have such a massive cast of 31 of us. We are so diverse in every way. We came together in March and it has been such an incredible journey so far. We we are striving for the show to be the best it can be and for it to be a great success . When you are working with people six days a week, long hours and you are striving for the same goals then it is difficult to not be a close group. We all get on great really well. When you are on stage with those people every night, you have to trust each other in order to know people will help you when you need help with lines and people are going to be there for you when you are tired, poorly etc. I am so lucky to be part of a team that get on so well and have so much fun. People have said how obvious it is we get on, so much energy and friendship is shown on stage and off stage.
What was it like working with Gurinder?
She is an extraordinary individual. I have never met anyone or worked with anyone like here before. She is so brave to have taken on a piece of work like Bend It Like Beckham, which was a formidable piece in her career, and to take that and bravely translate it for the stage, when she has never directed anything for theatre before and to have done it so well is amazing.
Beyond what she does professionally, I have learnt so much more from her personal life. She manages to balance and juggle her family with all the other things she is achieving in her career. I have learnt a lot of that stuff about her and how to make it work with family life and professional life. I feel grateful to have not only worked with her as a talent, but her as a woman.
Can we expect any good songs in the musical?
You can expect non-stop singing. The songs are so memorable. In fact, one time I was running to catch the tube home and I heard a group of girls singing. People leave the theatre humming along to the songs. It is an original score, so the songs have been composed purely for the musical. Howard and Kuljit have found an incredible fusion of western music and eastern bhangra vibes and have put it together so well. Charles Hart is a legend for writing lyrics for Phantom of the Opera and Aspect of Love, so he knows how to write some really catchy lyrics.
How long have you been in theatre?
I have worked in theatre for ten years. My parents used to take me and my sister to the theatre a lot. I grew up going to the west end and listening to musical sound tracks, so to be doing it professionally now is a dream come true. To have worked successfully in this field for ten years is a real achievement.
What do you enjoy the most about theatre production?
The joy of working on stage as opposed to on camera or on radio is great, as I get to see first hand and hear and feel audience’s reaction to the story you are telling. You get to hear their raucous laughter and see people wiping away a tear and beaming after the show. The adrenalin you get from seeing and hearing that is unbeatable.
Can we expect to see you in more theatre productions?
At the moment I am 100% devoted to Bend It Like Beckham. We do eight shows a week, six days a week. There is very little time to focus on anything else at the moment.
At the end of the year when we finish this contract then we shall see but right now I am dedicated and devoted to this project.
Do you think there should be more theatre productions centred on multiculturalism and diversity?
More and more theatre companies are creating work that is reflecting the country we are living in now. Bend It Like Beckham is definitely leading the way and I am sure others will follow. We will start to see an even more truthful portrayal of the world we are living in.
Why should people come watch it?
We have had many 5* reviews from established critics and journalists. The reaction every day has been incredibly positive. We have done over 50 shows. We have standing ovations every night, full houses and we have people waiting at stage doors telling us in person how great we are.
I knew people would love it, but we didn’t anticipate the extend on how much they would love it which does to show there is something in it for everyone. For those of you who can’t come down to watch it, we have recorded a cast album which is going to be released shortly. You will get to listen to the music and hear the story that way.
Bend It Like Beckham The Musical is being performed at the Phoenix Theatre, London. For more information visit www.benditlikebeckhamthemusical.co.uk or call 0843 316 1082 to book your tickets.