Monday, 18 May 2015

Arabian Nights, Horizons Performance Company, Havering College, Brentwood Theatre

Last year this young company performed Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan. So this year it was a case of from haute bourgeois London at the beginning of the 20th Century, to the lost and magical world of old Baghdad. 
Originally known as A Thousand Nights and a Night, this set of humourous, scatological (How Abu Hassan Broke Wind), cheeky and very human stories with strong moral messages, are renowned in the Arab world and taken up by European pantomime and other theatrical productions.
Presented by Havering College's teenage, fully integrated cast of students of BTEC Level Three Extended Diploma in Acting, this production used the script by Dominic Cooke, originally written for The Young Vic, later adapted for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2009/10.
The production was crammed full of imaginative technical wonders designed to amaze us, as much as the wife-killing emperor. Including a massed army created by the oh-so-simple device of multiple photostat repetitions of enemy warriors' heads mounted on wooden yokes on the horsemen's shoulders. Or the black umbrellas which, when reversed, turned into the gold that Ali Baba discovered in the cave.
Drum music played by one of the cast and dramatic lighting helped to set the atmosphere as the beautiful Scherazade, elegantly created by Songul Gilgil aided by her sister Dinarzade (Kavneet Padam), subtly and carefully outwitted the all-powerful Emperor Sharayar, strongly performed by Joe Nutter.
In addition there were varied and interesting performances by Charlie Bailey as Ali Baba; Jaanae King as the Captain; Gemma Willson as The Bird: Shannon Scantlebury Cameron as Kaseem's Wife; Luke Edmunds as Kaseem; Tianee Harvey as Marjanah; Hannah Robertson as Baba Mustapha; Darren Jobson's notoriously flatulent Abu Hassan; Sarah Thrower as Amina; Liam O'Connell as a bright, convincing Sinbad; and Megan Price as Parizade. 
Intensely bright and dazzling colour was used to the maximum for costumes and scenery to create a world away from our everyday lives thanks to Director and Designer Julia Stallard. She was greatly assisted by performing arts technician Matt Hudson who with volunteer ex-staff member Lynne Trubridge and ex-Havering College student Jamie Brown interpreted and created Julia's ideas for the stage, such as the dog masks and stick puppets.
I have just two drawbacks to mention. Audibility was a great problem even though I was in the second row. Projection is something you cannot ignore so please don't just talk to each other. Also make certain you are aware of lighting areas so that we don't see only half your face.
Apart from those comments I thoroughly enjoyed this voyage to Old Baghdad.
Mary Redman
May 18 2015  With apologies for the delay in posting this due to unforeseen circumstances.

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