Culture Editor Ilina Jha reviews Waltzing The Blue Gods, praising the choreography and music but finding issues with the storytelling
The Birmingham Repertory Theatre presents Waltzing The Blue Gods, a show about Jaivant Patel’s exploration of his sexuality and faith through the Hindu gods Shiva and Krishna. Reimagining and reclaiming the Queer symbolism of these Hindu deities, Patel uses of Kathak, a traditional Indian art form, to tell the story of his journey towards becoming an openly gay British-Indian man.
The staging of the show is simple but special. Portraits of Shiva and Krishna are hung on a diamond-esque structure, as are photos of Patel’s grandmother and Freddie Mercury, two important influences in his life. A door frame on the other side of the stage is built in a similar style to the diamond structure, and both light up in changing colours throughout the show. These are inspired by the LED lights framing pictures of Hindu deities that Patel witnessed growing up, as well as the bright lights of the LGBTQ+ scene. Additionally, candles are lit by Patel throughout the show and placed into bowls of water, and incense is lit, which produces a wonderful scent into the auditorium. Indian music plays as you enter the theatre, and overall this whole set up really immerses you into the world of Indian Hinduism.
The first act Waltzing The Blue Gods features Patel alone as he explores the god Shiva. The choreography is well-done, and the original music for this section (composed by Alap Desai) is excellent. However, I feel that the first act doesn’t make it clear what sort of tale Patel is trying to tell – if I hadn’t gone in knowing what the show was about, I would not have guessed that it was about queerness being explored through the symbolism of Hindu deities.
The second act makes this journey slightly more evident. This time, Patel is joined by four male musicians – Yadav Yadavan (vocals), Vijay Venkat (flute), Sahib Sehmbey (Tabla), and John Ball (Santoor) – who each enter the stage one by one and start playing their instruments. The live music performed onstage is absolutely exquisite – the musicians are all very accomplished performers, and having a variety of instruments provided a good balance. Unfortunately, the emergency alarm went off and we all had to exit the venue and wait a while before the performance could resume. However, when all was safe, the performers began the show again with ease, and each time a performer entered they were treated to a round of applause from the audience. The sudden evacuation had been a shock for all of us, but the performers didn’t let it show as their continued the show with composure and poise.
Patel enters and dances onstage while the musicians continue to play in the second act. Yadavan and Venkat are also involved in the choreography, guiding and helping Patel on his journey. Patel’s transition from hesitantly reaching out to more confidently dancing with Yadavan and Venkat beautifully conveys his increasing acceptance of his sexuality, and I felt that his performance really benefited from the musicians’ presence and involvement onstage. Thus the second act feels stronger than the first in terms of narrative clarity and complexity, and I found I enjoyed it a lot more.
Overall, although Waltzing The Blue Gods is at first not clear about the story it is telling, the show is full of beautiful choreography and wonderful music that makes the show a delightful theatre experience.
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