Heer Ranjha (Retold)
Tramway, Glasgow, until Sat 29 Nov
Two kids from opposite sides of the tracks. She’s a glamorous socialite, daughter of the owner of a successful chain of Scottish restaurants and a Sikh of Punjabi origin. He’s a suicidal job-seeker who’s never left the country and, although also from a Punjabi family, a practising Muslim. Love strikes when he is dredged from the Clyde and taken aboard her yacht.
The roots of Shan Khan’s play for Glasgow’s Ankur Productions actually lie in a 17th century Punjabi epic poem by Waris Shah. Updating Heer Ranjha to 21st century Glasgow allows designer Kai Fischer to create a chic monochrome space which director Daljinder Singh populates with a parade of Bollywood-style parties interspersed with murky back-room machinations. She uses her large professional and community cast with precision and imagination.
If only there was such imagination in Khan’s script. Nothing wrong in itself with the transposition of the ancient epic to the kitchens of Glasgow, but the playwright has also replaced the story’s high-minded grandeur with soap-opera banality.
As Ranjha, Taqui Nazeer endures a couple of confrontations with his workmates, but shows no qualities that would make him steal Heer’s heart, let alone ours. She, meanwhile, as played by Nalini Chetty, has a few more vigorous confrontations with her controlling parents, but nothing enough to elevate the scale of their romance to the majestic.