Wuthering Heights, Oldham Coliseum, Oldham

3.00

Heathcliffe hits exotic new heights

'Brontë goes to Bollywood" is how the British-Asian theatre company Tamasha has tagged its cross-over version of Wuthering Heights, in which saris, song and sand replace the rather more dour elements of Emily Brontë's Gothic novel. Although not a homage to Hindi cinema in the way that Slumdog Millionaire is, this adaptation by Deepak Verma is persuasive enough to have reduced the three Oldham-Indian ladies beside me to tears.

As Sanjay in EastEnders, Verma used to say "This time next year we'll be millionaires." Verma might well have struck gold with his idea of relocating the tale of doomed passion and poetic grand vision from the bleak, windswept Heights to the scorched desert of late 18th-century Rajasthan. Here, in India, the turbulent weather conveyed in the Yorkshire word "wuthering" is translated into sandstorms that blast not a heath but a simple set comprising beige ramps and evocative backdrops cinematically lit to convey epic landscapes. Against this background, Brontë's tale of fate, destiny and duty – aspects of Wuthering Heights which Hindu society would recognise all too clearly – is peppered with references to spirituality, dance sequences and a catchy soundtrack by Felix Cross and Sheema Mukherjee.

The musical opens in a market with camels dotted across the horizon and the tale unfolds through the words of a wanderer carrying a sacred urn. It doesn't take long before Shakuntala has fallen for Krishan whom her father Singh has brought home from the slums. You don't need to identify Brontë's characters since the story unfolds in a perfectly accessible way from whatever culture you approach it. For rigid Victorian values and snobbery, read stringent Indian hierarchies; for complicated, contradictory Bollywood heroine, see feisty, single-minded Yorkshire lass. Kristine Landon-Smith's take on Brontë owes as much to the 1939 film with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon as to the novel. But was it fanciful also to detect echoes of Bernard Herrmann's opera? The Bollywood melodrama is kept firmly in check, thanks to the sensitive characterisation of Pushpinder Chani as the Heathcliff character of Krishan opposite Youkti Patel, a vivid Shakuntala (Catherine Earnshaw).

In true Bollywood style, the songs have been pre-recorded in India so that the cast has the additional challenge of lip-synching to some of Bollywood's finest professional playback singers.

Verma has spiced up the English with some humour and incorporated a number of Hindi phrases so that the dialogue comes across more authentically in the genre of Bollywood. It certainly adds an exotic touch.

With a cast of just 11, the director, Kristine Landon-Smith, is hard-pushed to create the kind of all-singing, all-dancing line-up found in a Bollywood extravaganza. However she succeeds in drawing big-hearted performances and if busy market and grand party scenes – and the camel race – seem sparsely peopled, they are handsomely costumed and subtly choreographed.

The pace of the production isn't exactly fast but it seldom drags, the action evolving fluidly. It's no time at all before we're on the banks of the Ganges, spectators at Shakuntala's funeral pyre. The urn on the stranger's back, it becomes clear, contains the fettered spirit of his beloved Shakuntala. Cue another sandstorm into which Baba the narrator disappears, to emerge drifting in the breeze in a pretty "picturisation" as young Krishan is reunited with the freed spirit of Shakuntala. "Shukar he Bhagwan ka" (Thanks be to God) says Ayah (Nelly Dean, of course). It's an imaginative perspective on a great classic and one that, with a little reworking, could surely transfer to the big screen with the same success as Tamasha's East is East.

To 28 March (0161 624 2829) then touring, including Lyric Hammersmith, London W6 (0871 22 117 29), 29 April to 23 May

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition