Theatre Review: Mushy - Lyrically Speaking at The Leeds Playhouse

WITH their focus on British Asian stories, it’s no wonder Watford-based theatre company Rifco’s new production is inspired by the 2013 Educating Yorkshire series that propelled Musharaf (Mushy) Asghar into the limelight. Telling the story of one boy’s struggle to quite literally find his voice, Mushy: Lyrically Speaking follows our hero’s journey from star of the Channel 4 show to university student.

Opening with the rap music Mushy famously used to collect himself, Rifco’s Artistic Director Pravesh Kumar takes us to where it all began and a Dewsbury classroom in Thornhill Community Academy. Here, a wall of giant speakers and a few desks comprise a classroom setting with speakers omitting the sounds of jeering pupils as Mushy (Varun Raj) stammers his way through an English lesson with long-time unofficial mentor, Mr Burton (Oliver Longstaff).

New Rifco Director, Ameet Chana ambitiously tells Mushy’s tale with only a talented cast of three playing multiple parts. Eleanor Bull’s set design seamlessly moves the action between the school, Mr Burton’s house and the interior of Mushy’s single parent home by speakers concealing props or opening up to create kitchen work surfaces.

Kumar ably tells Mushy’s story by including spot-lit internal monologues to create a truly charismatic hero. Combining both Burton and Mushy’s work and home lives ensures Mushy’s larger-than-life mum, Ammi (Medhavi Patel), and Burton himself are believable fully three-dimensional characters. Inspired by the film The King’s Speech, Burton and Mushy are bound by the discovery music alleviates his stammer, taking them to the National TV Awards and later as touring inspirational speakers.

After meeting with Mushy and Burton pre-writing, Kumar has succeeded in capturing complex central relationships. Endearing but realistic, Ammi and Mushy’s bond is strong, played out by wrought conversations, moving reconciliations and plenty of humour, courtesy of Ammi’s sharp retorts. In this new medium, Mushy’s moving story of determination warmly reaches new audiences to once again touch, inspire and charm.

Mushy - Lyrically Speaking showed at The Leeds Playhouse 12 October.

Leo Owen