Deriving from the Middle Eastern and Southern Asian collection of folklore and mythical stories One Thousand and One Nights, Sinbad the Sailor is the legendary tale of a fictional voyager driven by his appetite for adventure and discovery. A tale that perhaps is not necessarily associated with Pantomime, Stratford East Theatre Royal continue to do what they do best; challenging the norm.
A male hero steeped in adoration, Sinbad is comically brought down to Earth and his triumphs are revealed to be nothing more than a figment of the imagination. His sister is the real hero, and this is an element of the production that really resonates with the audience as the ancient tale is updated and presents a range of female roles. Stratford East Theatre Royal are renowned for their adaptations of pantomimes. Each show is careful to keep certain traditional attributes such as the villain, dame, audience participation and witty one liners. The rule book however is thrown out of the window and experimentation of form takes place. The musical compositions draw their inspirations from popular tracks of today, bringing the Victorian art form to the masses and allowing for the audience to participate and sing along.
The staging is to be commended. Whether the cast are sailing the perilous seven seas; thanks to a revolving mechanism centre stage, or discovering an elaborate exotic biodiversity; thanks to a beautifully adorned scene of plants and flowers we travel and experience the intricacies of the world as the cast do. David Plater‘s lighting design compliments the staging brilliantly. A stand out of the evening is the replication of a thunder storm, created by a series of white lights down stage abruptly flashing in canon. This creativity is astounding, and teamed up with Andrew Johnson‘s sound design showcases the level of imagination on the creative team.
Jenny Tiramani and Harriet Barsby‘s costume design is incredible. From monochrome Pirates, the Genie’s outlandish green long legged trouser suit, the genius frilly monkey costumes manipulated by the cast members wearing them, each costume piece is a stand out and this production is a must see for a masterclass in costume design. The costumes are fun, bold and just go to show how inventive you can be. The evening is joyously brought together by the generous ensemble. Julian Capolei‘s Sinbad is down to Earth and made into the legend that he has become by his powerful sister, Sinbadda played by Gabby Wong. The legendary Michael Bertenshaw effortlessly brings his canniving yet comical charm as Prince Naw Ze Uzz, the pantomime villain intent on witnessing Sinbad’s downfall. Rina Fatania is a joy to watch as Green Genie Uz, if you’re not laughing whilst she’s onstage then there’s seriously something wrong. You root for her and that’s key. Johnny Amobi‘s Nurse contributes to the lighthearted nature of the evening. Anobi’s nurse is a vivacious diva and works perfectly with the narrative. This Nurse is on the lookout for love and a much needed holiday so just like the Genie, we root for her, she’s a ball of fun and energy.
If you’re not sure whether a panto is for you, then give Kerry Michael‘s Sinbad the Sailor a chance, it’s inventive, untraditional and breaks down a lot of barriers. For those who love panto, you’ll not be disappointed with this show at all. 4/5
Review written by Lucy Basaba.
Sinbad the Sailor is currently showing at the Stratford East Theatre Royal until Saturday 21 January 2017. For more information on the production, visit here…
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