Arabian Nights

Wed 5th – Mon 24th August 2015

reviews

Freya Routledge

at 19:09 on 16th Aug 2015

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Greeted by one of the three cast members - Luke Pitman - who gave every willing audience member a hug as they walked in, Story Pocket Theatre’s Arabian Nights started as warmly and as it meant to go on. The show was a hilarious journey through wonderful Arabian legends, creating a truly exciting and memorable hour of inventive storytelling, which was a joy to watch for both adults and children alike.

Performed by just three actors – Pitman, William Forde and Yasmin Goodwin – the logistics of the show were cleverly developed so that the cast could easily switch between characters. Their synchronicity and chemistry on stage was palpable, making their multiple character stories all the more playful. Genius, too, were the simple props and lighting techniques that allowed the stage’s setting to change from that of a palace to a desert in seconds. This modest and versatile set-up allowed storyteller Sheherazade’s (Goodwin) tales to occupy the forefront of the production as she attempted to save her own life through her wonderful stories.

The mythical tales comprised of Ali Baba, The Fisherman and the Genie, The Little Beggar and Aladdin. Although both Goodwin and Forde had their brilliant moments - especially in their doctor and wife duo - Pitman was the star of the show. His mischievous charm manifested itself most entertainingly when he played a donkey, bearing his teeth grinning and crossing his eyes as he romped across the stage. A couple of songs were also thrown in (although there could have been more) accompanied by synchronised and animated choreography that was received warmly by the audience.

As well as needing more songs (and with children being the main demographic) the show might have benefitted from more audience interaction, especially considering the excited response that was generated from the front rows brief inclusion in the story of Ali Baba. That aside, it was a truly entertaining and imaginative journey that saw thieves, genies, Royals and prisoners travel through deserts, villages, palaces and caves. A fitting conclusion to the performance was a scene that suggested the restorative effects of storytelling, something which I felt strongly on observing these tales’ capacity to entertain not just the children, but everyone in the audience.

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Rowena Henley

at 15:32 on 17th Aug 2015

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The ethos of Story Pocket Theatre is ‘to produce beautiful, wonderful and magical theatre for families to keep classic stories alive, bringing children’s stories to the stage in an inventive and exciting way’. With Michael Morpurgo as their patron, Story Pocket Theatre are a troupe whose dramatic explorations are rooted in the art of storytelling, and their passion for doing so radiated from the stage during their production of Arabian Nights. Following the traditional Middle Eastern tale of Shahryar and his wife Sheherazade, this play layered story upon story and transported us to a rich and exciting mélange of different worlds.

Upon arrival, one is instantly transported into a dreamlike place, setting the child inside you aflutter. Three beautifully constructed white domes are placed in the shape of a lotus flower centre stage and, already, you feel the warm Arabian breeze curl around you on this rather dull Edinburgh morning. The set was one of the most effective I have seen throughout my festival experience, and the production team (Francine Huin-Wah, Sarah Sage, Bower Wood and Sharon Davey) should be highly commended for their ingenious work. These three domes could be instantly transformed into a mountain, a fishing boat, a court room and many more elaborate settings within seconds. The creative team seems to have understood the mindset of a child: they found wonder in anything and everything.

The acting from each of the three performers (William Forde, Yasmin Goodwin and Luke Pittman) throughout Arabian Nights could be described as nothing other than spectacular. Each had their function within the company (Forde, for example, playing the more sombre and evil characters while Pittman took on the more peculiar) and each did it to an impeccably high standard. Playing what must have been over 30 different characters, each actor had an inexhaustible energy and the perfect child-friendly enthusiasm. Pittman’s facial expression were astounding, and had the kids in stitches; Forde’s performance as Aladdin’s evil ‘uncle’ was Disney-esque in its theatricality; and Goodwin’s strong female characters were inspiring and engaging in equal measure. I could not speak highly enough of this cast and expect incredible things for their future in children’s entertainment.

My only small criticism was the slight sparsity of audience interaction, which I consider a crucial component in children’s theatre. Where it was used, it worked well, but the kids started to become somewhat restless towards the end, something which could have been avoided by a few more shout outs or audience games.

If you have children, young siblings and relatives or just a child-like spirit yourself, I implore you to visit this magical production. I arrived a grumpy reviewer and left a wide-eyed kid again.

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