Twelve years after the box office success of Bend It Like Beckham, a stage adaptation of the hit film is in the works and set to make its London debut.
Due to open at the West End’s Phoenix Theater next May, the musical will follow the same path as the film, telling the story of a Punjabi Sikh girl — portrayed by Parminder Nagra in the original — who adores soccer but is banned from playing by her parents.
The film launched the careers of Nagra and Keira Knightley, while also bringing issues such as interracial relationships, sexual identity and religion to mainstream cinema audiences. Nagra secured a US television role in ER, while Knightley became an Oscar-nominated star (for her role in Pride & Prejudice).
Bend It Like Beckham went on to receive both Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations in 2003. In 2010, it became the first Western film to screen on North Korean television. More importantly, it was the first commercial film I saw that featured female leads playing sports. It was funny, heart-felt and provocative and I absolutely loved it.
The original film’s director, Gurinder Chadha, will helm the project. It’ll still be set in 2001, making it a bit of a period piece. But Chadha still sees a great deal of relevance:
“We are opening in the year of the election and there are enough people out there who will be using race as a divisive mechanism during the election process, which traditionally and historically always happens, as we know,” she told the Guardian.
“What we are trying to do is make a stakehold for those of us who believe we live in a brilliant nation that is all the better for being as diverse and as interesting culturally as it is, and that it isn’t just one community that has created this.”
It was the stage version of Billy Elliot that finally sold her on the revamp, she told the Guardian: “I was doubly moved because I loved how it had crystallised a particular moment in British history and thought, ‘Hold on, I might have been mistaken.’”
Chadha said that her intention was not just to “regurgitate” the film on to the stage but to grapple with the themes it dealt with – “inclusiveness and the very human warmth about who we are as a nation”.
Casting will be announced shortly for the musical. Tickets will go on sale on 7 November 2014. Original music for the show, produced by Sonia Friedman, has been written by Howard Goodall, with lyrics by Charles Hart.