Arabian Nights Performance
At the end of a busy Autumn term what a pleasure it was to be taken into the world of the Orient for an evening of storytelling theatre. The Parabola Arts Centre theatre was scented with incense, and even before the play began, bowls of Turkish Delight circulated round the audience, ensuring that we were all ready to succumb to an evening of enchantment.
We were not disappointed. The cast, working together in an ensemble, seemed to conjure caves, gold and huge numbers of characters from nowhere to illustrate the stories of Shahrazad, played with great charm by Isabel Markham. Her quick-witted story telling in the face of imminent death at the hands of her unrelenting husband is the core of the piece. Claire Utomi was so fierce in the role of the King, and the sound effects of sharpening axes added such force to the threat of instant execution that a strong sense of tension was created, and this was heighted by Tomisin Adeyemi’s Vizier, who seemed very eager to have Shahrazad beheaded as soon as possible. The four stories were beautifully held together with original music by Mr Hawley.
There were terrific moments of comedy throughout the performance, which Mrs Revell and Ella Downey directed with great verve and imagination. The attempted disposal of the body of a beggar, played by Lora Babbs, which involved the whole cast moving her body over their heads was a particularly hilarious moment. There was also simple but imaginative stagecraft, including the transformation of the actors into donkeys with the use of grey cloaks, and the opening of Ali Baba’s cavern being performed by the cast using only their bodies. The only props used in the production were cushions, which became a whole range of items as the actors mimed their use.
The set came alive with a colourful and constantly moving lighting design, which made excellent use of the sophisticated new lanterns that have recently been installed in the theatre and can be programmed to create moving shapes of colour. Charlene Kwok, the lighting operator, and Henrietta Buchanan-Michaelson on the sound desk had hundreds of cues to oversee, but as usual the technical team coped magnificently with the demands of a very fast moving piece of theatre. Stage Manager Jess Kwok and her assistant Amy Howlett carried on the tradition of CLC girls from the Tech Club taking complete responsibility for running the show, and both cast and crew deserved the ecstatic applause they received at the curtain call.
Mr Smith, Director of Drama