Arabian Nights transports you into a fantastical, phantasmagorical realm that exists beyond everyday imagination. In a land where princesses, kings, philosophical crabs and fatigued donkeys share equal billing, we’re offered a montage of weird and wacky tales. The actors are charismatic and endearing; although their acknowledged lack of professional experience is evident. That aside, it’s a fun night out! At the Camden Fringe.
A tale about stories, a frenzy of fables… Arabian Nightswill guide you to a faraway place lurking in the depths of a well-oiled imagination. The catalyst to this montage of marvels is evident in the title. For those of you who haven’t read the one thousand and one (Arabian) Nights, here’s an overview:
Scheherazade (“call me Shaz”) marries the King, who, unfortunately, indulges in his fondness of executing his many unsuspecting wives. Shaz avoids various deaths by relying on her witty tongue and meandering mind. Each time she’s threatened by an axe, a beehive or otherwise, Shaz’s creativity captures the King’s rapt attention and together we bear witness to fabulous
fictions – her saving grace, Your Grace. A thousand days and a thousand stories later, Queen Scheherazade begins to blank – only by this time, the King has grown rather fond of his wife’s head and the decision to kill her hangs in the balance.
Described as a ‘rip-roaring comedy’, Arabian Nights transports you into a fantastical, phantasmagorical realm that exists beyond everyday imaginings. In a land where princesses, kings, philosophical crabs and fatigued donkeys share equal billing, we’re offered a medley of weird and wacky sagas. These classic tales are energetically brought to life by the youthful cast of five. The actors are charismatic and endearing; although their lack of professional experience is evident. Some of the characterisation is borderline ‘cardboard cut-out’ and the energy and pace of the piece sometimes crescendos into mania rather than artistry.
Saying that, the cast do a great job in transforming themselves into a multitude of physically demanding roles – including a bull, a horse, a cockerel, a ‘monkey-prince’, a pre-hatched bird and a whole host of Royals. Considering the vast number of stories and characters, the cast do well in clearly defining each of the many parts and plots.
I particularly enjoyed Tom Alvon’s take on the high-maintenance King who stamps his foot, barks orders, and kisses his own flexed biceps – a bit like Prince Charming in Shrek. The rest of the actors also get their chance to shine: Charlotte Reid’s sassy Genii, Emilia Petryszyn’s bright-eyed Ebony Horse, Eddy Cottridge’s analytical crab and Tamara Aster’s crazed-yet-kindly Mrs Axe all cracked me up.
The imagination behind the staging of the intricate stories cannot be faulted. Director Jennifer R. Lee deserves particular praise for the vision that she injected into the piece.
This show is fast-paced and demands attention. The stories are wonderfully creative; although I did question why Sinbad strapped her/himself onto a diamond-strewn piece of meat. I must have blinked and missed something. Some of the stories are a bit long-winded; ergo, this production has a one-hour shelf life. By the end of the sixty minutes, we leave satisfied, but I suspect many would not be longing for more. Embracing this show for what it is – namely a bit of fun – the charming performers exude energy, and you can’t help but get sucked into the silly humour.