This new musical is about love – of woman and of country. It’s adapted from Kahlil Gibran’s biographical novel, which the Lebanese writer wrote some time before his hugely popular 1923 work, The Prophet. Set in Beirut, it’s the story of a man who, having immigrated to the US, returns home and falls madly in love; 18 years old in love; “I saw the angels of heaven through the eyes of women” in love; very young, very naive, ever so slightly silly in love.
Written by and starring Nadim Naaman, Broken Wings received a semi-staged performance at the Haymarket theatre in 2018. Director Bronagh Lagan then toured the show and now it returns to London, with some of the original cast and a rotating stage. Perhaps intended to inject dynamism into a fairly static production, the rotating feature actually has a strangely stultifying effect (the cast spend a lot of time lining up in rows) and looks a little tired.
Naaman’s score, co-composed with Dana Al Fardan, is best when it’s unabashedly romantic and there’s a particularly handsome swell to the young love song, Here in This Garden. But there’s not a huge amount of variety to the music and surprisingly little of the unique sounds or rhythms of the Middle East.
Lagan’s directing and Naaman’s book overplay an already overstated story, which features an evil bishop, saintly mothers (when will this trope end?) and a literally angelic baby. In one scene, we’re shown the bishop describing an evil plan we’ve been told about, in detail, only minutes before. Scenes are often played out and then needlessly summarised by the older Gibran (Naaman) who hovers on the edges of his life story, repeating what does not need to be repeated.
It’s a shame because there are some delicate reflections on love and striking singing. Noah Sinigaglia has a sharp purity to her voice as love interest Selma and Soophia Foroughi has an alto voice that could blow down houses. If only she had a juicier role to play than a worshipped mother figure who never quite comes down to earth.