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5/5

MEERA: Sparkling Love (Theatreview)

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A combination of traditional music, various dance styles, and a cinematic backdrop, this production explores love in its purest forms and shows the sacrifices one will make when they love someone completely and unconditionally.

We are introduced to the main concept of the show almost immediately, where a child Meera, born into royalty as a princess, discusses her love for the Hindu God Krishna with her mother. Meera and a young Krishna dance with one another, and though their dancing lacks some technical acuity, most likely due to their youth, they show obvious performance potential. Little Meera in particular, played by Ishani Wahegaonkar, does a fantastic job at portraying the young, precocious Meera who dreams of marrying Krishna.

One of the highlights of this production is the set design and costuming. So many beautiful swirling saris, and sparkles catching the light on almost every costume worn by the performers. The women wear gorgeous, dazzling diamond jewellery and the men are adorned with beautiful silk coats. The costuming really does add to the authenticity of the tale and helps the audience to feel as though they are indeed surrounded by Indian royalty. The backdrop supporting the work of the performers onstage is really quite stunning. The animations change frequently, effectively assisting the audience in their reading of the current temperament of the characters. When we meet teenage Meera and we see her love for Krishna is as strong as it has ever been, we are treated to a flowing animation of trees and falling leaves, birds and rabbits frolicking through a meadow, and clouds moving across the sky. Later, as Meera reluctantly consents to an arranged marriage with an Indian prince named Bhojraj, dark clouds and lightning fill the background, foreshadowing the unhappiness Meera and her husband will both suffer due to his unrequited love for her, and her longing for Krishna.

I thoroughly enjoyed the use of traditional Indian music alongside all of the dance styles featured in the show. We see classical ballet, a pair of aerialists suspended from hoops, jazz, contemporary and even pole dance all set to rich, exquisite traditional music. In my opinion, the best dance in this production is performed by pairs or small groups. Teenage Meera and teenage Krishna dance together in a contemporary-style duet where the training that both dancers have had is obvious, however, I feel that there was a lack of connection between the dancers. I commend the skill of the aerialists, contorting their bodies around their hoops and at one point hanging on by just an elbow! A particular highlight is when the curtains come down and rise again to reveal a pole being shared by two dancers, representing the emotional expressions of Meera and Krishna. These two dancers, Richard Glynn Owens and Brooke-Lin, show grace, strength, and vulnerability in their performance. They work together, around each other and the pole with coherence and the imagery works perfectly alongside Krishna and Meera dancing together and contemplating their love. Another highlight of the dance sections is the belly dance that happens towards the end half of the production. The dancers move with a hypnotic rhythm, with beautiful golden fabric emerging from behind them like wings, drawing patterns in the air. Suddenly, the dancers reveal a new silver pair of wings, lit up with fairy lights, and it is visually something to behold.

The choreography for the larger group pieces is well composed, though the dancers may have benefitted from a little bit more rehearsal, to resolve issues around timing and precise placement of limbs in space. However, considering the youth of these dancers, I feel that they perform their choreography well. Perhaps a little more eye contact with the audience and with each other would lift the performance quality even further.

Overall, the story is easy to follow and enjoyable. We see the young Meera grow and follow her through different stages of her life, into her adulthood. As she becomes an adult and is married to Prince Bhhojraj, we see her struggle with her love for Krishna that is not understood by society because he is a God. She also struggles with guilt due to the fact that she knows the prince loves her unconditionally. This leads to all sorts of trouble for her, as she is rejected by society and threatened by the prince’s family. I would like to commend in particular Marianne Infante for her portrayal of the prince’s sister, Uda Bai. She sets about plotting her revenge on Meera with the kind of humour that gets the whole audience cackling, and her embodiment of this character is a real stand out of the night.

Meera is certainly an entertaining large-scale production, and I congratulate the 150 cast and crew that brought the idea of Aarti Bajaj (adult Meera and artistic director) to life. The exploration of love of all kinds, from familial to plutonic to romantic, to irrational and inexplicable, is clear and relatable for all audience members. This performance is truly a melting pot of cultures and times and is humorous and entertaining.

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