2 August 2014
A Buddhist musical about spiritual enlightenment, with lasers, fireball projections, porn heels and pounding Euro beats? And it all began as a rehabilitation programme in a maximum security prison in Milan? It’s unlikely you’d imagine any of that, when you hear they’ve made a stage version of Herman Hesse’s 1920s novel about the Buddha’s journey. But, welcome this glorious oddity into your life with pure love, for it is as utterly mesmerising as it is ridiculous.
The opening scenes feel like stumbling into a cruise ship ballroom. Spray-tanned, nimble gym bodies leap across the set, belting out lyrics like ‘Gods of the sky! What is the meaning of life?’ The glossy, high-camp production follows Siddhartha’s journey – pampered ‘I’m alright Jack’ prince, then homeless truth-seeker, and eventually radiant wise man (portrayed by a Richard Gere-ish Michael Nouri, the one American/English actor in the otherwise Italian language, subtitled production). It’s a loincloth-version of Derek Jarman’s Sebastiane, transported to a meditation class, with more-is-more singing to accompany it all – and that unlikely combo leads to something incredibly enjoyable, perhaps not necessarily for the reasons the producers had in mind. Regardless, the enlightened crowd are up on their feet for an ovation when it ends.
Assembly Rooms, 0844 693 3008, until 24 (not 6,13), 6.10pm, £15 (£12).