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Broken Wings @ The Haymarket Theatre, London

Published by: Trevor Gent on 3rd Aug 2018 | View all blogs by Trevor Gent

I have to confess I had never heard of Khalil Gibran before coming to see this show. Decades ahead of his time he was an outspoken advocate of equal rights and feminism. When Broken Wings was first published in 1912 (in Arabic) it was met with hostility in the eastern Mediterranean. But it was better received elsewhere, including North America where he has sold more than ten million books.

 

He described this first novel as ‘a spiritual biography’ a story full of personal discovery, romance, political thought and philosophy. It has inspired paintings and even a pop song. It has been adapted into a film, a play and now, a musical. So what is it?

 

'Broken Wings' is an autobiographical tale of tragic love based on Lebanese-born poet Kahlil Gibran’s 1912 masterpiece, with Book Music & Lyrics by West End star Nadim Naaman ("The Phantom of the Opera") and Music and Lyrics by Dana Al Fardan, one of the Middle East’s leading contemporary composers.

 

Khalil Gibran was born in Lebanon in 1883 and in 1895 his father is imprisoned for embezzlement, and the family assets are seized by the Ottoman regime. His mother emigrates to Boston with her four children to begin a new life. In 1901 Gibran returns to Lebanon, to study Arabic and French. That summer, the events of Broken Wings take place.

 

After a beautiful musical introduction by the on stage orchestra several dressed in traditional costume against a simple but effective set we are in New York City, 1923 where we meet an ageing Gibran in his cold studio who begins the show in narrative style setting the scenes.

 

Through poetry and music, he transports us back two decades and across continents, to turn-of-the-century Beirut. His eighteen-year-old self-returns to The Middle East after five years in America, to complete his education and discover more of his heritage. He falls deeply in love with Selma Karamy, the daughter of family friend and hugely respected local businessman, Farris Karamy. However, Selma soon becomes betrothed to Mansour Bey Galib, nephew of the powerful Bishop Bulos Galib, who has one eye on the Karamy family fortune. Gibran and Selma fight to reconcile their love for one another, whilst navigating the rules, traditions and expectations that their society lays before them.

 

Not knowing the story I initially had difficulty getting the gist of what was happening but that certainly makes you concentrate. I had been to see Sounds and Sorcery at the Vaults in the afternoon, an immersive show with the music of Fantasia. So maybe I had Disney on my mind but the music did seem a bit Disneyesque at times but mostly rather slow and ponderous. I have a feeling they won’t be as memorable in years to come. However, there are some very good songs, particularly Spirit of the Earth. This is reprised a couple of times during the show.

 

The cast perform their parts very well particularly the young Gibran and Selma and there are even a few laughs to ease the tensions. To be honest they were needed as the ending is a rather sombre affair, I heard a few sniffs around. Thankfully the departure back to America with his good friend Karim Bawab lifts you a bit. I was not blown away by this show, although the story was well told. A lot of people rose to their feet at the end for a standing ovation but I didn’t.

 

Broken Wings continues at the Haymarket Theatre, London until Saturday 4th August 2018. No tour dates are available at the moment.

 

Box office: 020 7930 8800
www.trh.co.uk

Running time:
2 hours 10 mins (including interval)

Wednesday - Saturday at 7.30pm
Saturday matinee at 2.30pm


The Broken Wings Concept Album was released in May. It is available for download on iTunes, Amazon MP3 and Google Play. Limited-edition CDs can be ordered via Auburn Jam Music using this link: www.brokenwings.auburnjam.co.uk

Check out the earlier video for Spirit of the Earth, the first song released from Broken Wings
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kDrRrc27FM&feature=youtu.be

 

Book: Nadim Naaman

Music & Lyrics: Nadim Naaman & Dana Al Fardan

Orchestrations: Joe Davison

Director:  Bronagh Lagan

Producer: Ali Matar

Photos by Marc Brenner through www.kevinwilsonpublicrelations.co.uk

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