The Far Pavilions

Previewed 24 March 2005, opened 14 April 2005, closed 17 September 2005 at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London

The new musical The Far Pavilions in London, based on the best-selling novel by MM Kaye

The Far Pavilions is set in the India of the British Raj at the end of the 19th century where, against the spectacular and epic sweep of battle, treachery and intrigue, two star-crossed lovers are caught up in a passionate and haunting love story.

Lagaan meets Mughal-e-Azam, in this awe-inspiring tale of forbidden love, lost identity and divided loyalty set during the British Raj. Princess Anjuli and servant boy. Ashok, are childhood sweethearts growing up in idyllic surroundings. Their world is torn apart when Anjuli's father is found murdered. Ashok is blamed and as he flees with his dying mother, he learns a bittersweet secret - that he is really Ashton son of a British Officer. Many years later, he returns to India to find his true love. While fate reunites him with Anjuli, she is now betrothed to the evil Rana of Bhitor. Will Ashok and Anjuli ever find happiness?

The cast features Hadley Fraser as 'Ashton Pelham-Martyn', Kabir Bedi as 'Koda Dad Khan-Sahib', David Burt as 'Lieutenant Harkness', Kulvinder Ghir as 'Maharana of Bhitor', Simon Gleeson as 'Lt. Walter Hamilton', Sophiya Haque as 'Janoo Rani', Gayatri Iyer as 'Princess Anjuli', Dianne Pilkington as 'Belinda' and David Savile as 'Sir Louis Cavagnari' with Marina Abdeen, Ralph Birtwell, Shirani Bolle, Hannah Chick, Dan De Cruz, Christopher Dickins, Meryl Fernandes, Nick Ferranti, Clare Foster, Tomos Griffiths, Dean Hussain, Irvine Iqbal, Caroline Keiff, Shaheen Khan, Asha Kingsley, Sunil Pramanik, Rick Savery, Robert Scotcher, Stewart C Scudamore, Nikki Shaw, John Trakos, Jez Unwin, Graham Vick and Fiona Wade.

Directed by Gale Edwards with choreography by Karen Bruce, sets by Lez Brotherston, costumes by Andreane Neofitou, lighting by Peter Mumford and sound by Rick Clarke. Musical by Philip Henderson and Stephen Clark with Indian music and lyrics by Kuljit Bhamra, based on the M.M. Kaye novel and original stage adaptation by Michael E. Ward.

"The problem with The Far Pavilions is that you will like it exactly as much or as little as you liked M M Kaye's original bestseller or the epic TV mini-series with Ben Cross, Amy Irving and Omar Sharif. I was not a fan, and in some ways this lavish new musical only accentuates the original difficulties. The plot is still all over the place, the idea of a hero who cannot work out whether he is meant to be Indian or English gets a little tedious, and, above all, the sense of an author striving to be Charles Dickens but ending up as Barbara Cartland does not really help either... Australian director Gale Edwards has assembled a talented cast, with Hadley Fraser as the Anglo-Indian and Marina Abdeen, Dianne Pilkington and Gayatri Iyer as some of the women in his complex life. The score aches to be Lloyd Webber, but Stephen Clark and Philip Henderson have trouble making it soar. Some of their best numbers have a caustic intelligence touching the head, but we need something to touch the heart. There is a sense of wits without depth, as though the vast sprawl of India, and the tumultuous history of the 1860s there, had proved too hard to capture in any real coherence. This ambitious show suffers the on-stage fate of its central character - an inability to decide quite where it belongs or where it is going." The Daily Express

"There seems to be a feeling at the moment that you can turn just about anything into a musical... M.M. Kaye wondered, shortly before her death in January at the age of 95, whether The Far Pavilions, her best-seller about the often tortured relationship between Britain and India in the days of the Raj, wouldn't turn out to be a musical too far. I think the old girl had a point. In the shape of the big, brassy musical that opened this week at the Shaftesbury Theatre, her themes of national identity (dee-dum-dee-dum-dee-dum), honour (der-der-der-dar ) and forbidden love (tra-la-la-la) can seem trite and vacuous, if not downright comical. But Hadley Fraser throws himself with resolute passion into the role of Ashton, the courageous Indian officer who turns out to have British blood flowing through his veins... At the climax of the final well-staged battle sequence, after Ashton appears to have been shot through the back of his head, Fraser stands up, in one last act of defiance that seems to sum up the entire cast's attitude to their material - to belt out just a few more platitudes to the effect that life can be tough. If you can overlook that, suspend, too, for one evening any sensitivities you may have about race, class, British history and what has been done to a much-loved book, and simply enjoy the music and the spectacle of a talented cast demonstrating tremendous grace under pressure, then The Far Pavilions might yet be for you." The Sunday Telegraph

The Far Pavilions is as corny as Paula Radcliffe's big toes, as corny as Kellogg's - but it is terrific fun. Almost defiantly unfashionable, this stage adaptation of the late Mollie Kaye's celebrated novel is amazingly colourful. The mid 19thcentury Indian Raj costumes are sequinned, whaleboned marvels. The singing, while not always of the highest order, is gutsy and clear. The score is sub Lloyd-Webber, with the sort of gear changes normally associated with a poorly maintained Land Rover. But it crunches its way efficiently through the plot. It gets on with the job in hand... Hadley Fraser is perfect for his shallow role. He has a pleasing, powerful tenor, a lean torso, boyish, dark curls and a smile like Basil Brush. Matinee idol material, we've got it. His best friend, in the army, is Walter Hamilton, who is played exuberantly and with much manly dash by a blond Aussie surfer-type called Simon Gleeson... The songs come pelting in from all sides and are seldom better than when being sung by Ashton's English sometimefiancee Belinda (Dianne Pilkington, very talented)... The stage's central revolve is used so much that some actors must have become almost dizzy. This is a joyously escapist show, a happy show, a cheerful pick-meup which even manages to elicit the occasional schmaltzy tear. Corny? You bet. Some people left at halftime, but I loved every minute of it." The Daily Mail

The muusical The Far Pavilions in London at the Shaftesbury Theatre previewed from 24 March 2005, opened on 14 April 2005 and closed on 17 September 2005.

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