Broken Wings (The Other Palace)

Being invited to experience a musical part-way through its journey is particularly exciting for a fan of the genre, and so I was delighted to be able to make space in my diary for this workshop production of Broken Wings.

A musical adaptation of a novel by Kahlil Gibran, this production has music and lyrics by Dana Al Fardan and Nadim Naaman (who also assumes a leading role as the older Gibran).

This is stated to be the final genesis of a work which has gone through a journey from concept album to revisions. It’s an interesting work, set in a Beirut where a woman’s marriage is a matter for a transaction “between young men and fathers”.

Nadim Naaman in Broken Wings
Nadim Naaman in Broken Wings

Young Khalil Gibran (Benjamin Purkiss) has spent time in America, where his mother and siblings relocated after his father’s imprisonment (on which charge, we never discover).

This idealistic young man reconnects with his homeland and his good friend, Karim (Nadeem Crowe), who mocks his speech and Western ways. Through Karim, a friendship is forged with one Farris Karamy (Karl Seth), a respectable and wealthy widower with a beautiful daughter, Selma (Nikita Johal).

Just as Khalil and Selma find their mutual love, they are parted in true Romeo and Juliet style as the powerful local Bishop (Jeremy Secomb) seeks the girl in marriage for his philandering nephew Mansour (Sami Lamine) – in some ways a surrogate marriage as he desires her himself.

Against this backdrop we have a range of songs including pieces which move the plot along, melodramatic duos and solos, and one motif song for the company of thirteen performers which resurfaces three times, “The Spirit of the Earth”.

Selma is a strong and independent woman, but she is out of step with the times: she may exhibit both the “softness and strength” of her dead mother, but she is powerless to influence her own fate.

The musical accompaniment by Benjamin Cox (keyboard) and Joe Davison (piano) sometimes threatens to drown out the singers, but largely underscores the action very well.

At times I was able to picture the sort of settings which will accompany this musical in its full form this summer. At other times I felt the story was lost, and although I appreciated the tragic events stemming from Selma’s marriage, secret (but seemingly chaste) meetings with Khalil, and eventual birth of a son “you have come to lead me home”, I didn’t feel sufficiently connected to identify with Selma’s impassioned “broken wings” outburst, or with Khalil’s “you have buried my heart in that grave”.

In such a small company it is hard to single out performances, but Johal and Soophia Foroughi give a strong sense of strength in their singing and acting to Selma and Mother, and I enjoyed the performances of Seth and Secomb as Farris (vulnerable and lonely without his wife and daughter) and the Bishop (conniving and greedy).

Broken Wings played on 28 April for two performances; I attended the afternoon show.