Mushy: Lyrically Speaking review at Watford Palace Theatre – ‘upbeat true-life musical’
The story of Musharaf ‘Mushy’ Asghar, the stammering star of Channel Four’s Educating Yorkshire is the basis for this rap musical celebrating his journey from tongue-tied student to confident young man.
Performed with uncanny likeness by Varun Raj, Mushy’s tale is not an obvious one for the stage but Pravesh Kumar, the artistic director of Rifco, has written a story that faithfully reenacts highlights from the show and adds a further message about the integration and isolation of British Asian communities into the mix.
Eleanor Bull’s set design takes the form of an explicit visual message about speaking and listening – colourful speakers and school lockers that open to become the prayer wall of Mushy’s mum’s living room, in which sits a cling-film-covered armchair that she refuses to unwrap. This becomes a forced metaphor about how Mushy isn’t understood because he is apparently wrapped in plastic. Like the armchair. Hmm.
The rap interludes by Luton-based rapper Raxstar are simplistic and strange, and include a song about a vocal exercise where Mushy is asked to blow bubbles through a straw; “bubbles, I’m blowing bubbles” sings Raj to a basic backbeat.
Scenes with Mushy’s Ammi are given the most love by director Ameet Chana, and infused with wit and charm by Medhavi Patel as a hard-working, melodramatic Pakistani Muslim who has lived in Yorkshire for 20 years and never learnt English.
Through her compelling scenes we learn about her struggle to integrate while being the sole bread-winner for five children. Other moments depicting Mushy’s motivational speeches seem superficial in comparison.
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