I grew up feasting on the Sinbad and the Arabian Nights films. I loved the adventure, the swashbuckling and the monsters, so when I saw that Travelling Light were doing this show at the Tobacco Factory, I really wanted to go and see it.
Travelling Light produces theatre for young audiences and have been doing so for 30 years next year. I remember them coming to my school and working with my class back in nineteen mumble and mumble (not giving my age away). This show was advertised for ages 6 and older. The audience at the showing I watched had a smattering of junior school aged children, but not many – not surprising seeing the show started at 7:30pm on a school night.
The play was ‘in the round’, and for those who are not familiar with theatre terms, this means the audience sat all around the stage, with the action happening in the middle. As the audience piled in, the stage had 4 poles with hammocks hanging from them. As the lights faded, the cast appeared unexpectedly out of nowhere (very clever) and sang a song called ‘Fish’ (very amusing).
The programme explained that there are seven voyages of Sinbad, each of which start with Sinbad being shipwrecked. This play is a play within a play, as Sinbad regales the crew of a fishing ship (hence the song) his adventures while the story of his final adventure is acted out.
There are seven members of the cast, which is made up of Sinbad, the four crew of the fishing ship, plus two musicians who bring the musical score to the play, but are also part of the fishing crew (which lines up some very clever jokes). One of the characters is Zara Ramm, who plays Mum in ‘Grandpa in My Pocket’ and therefore a familiar face for younger audience members.
When Sinbad tells his stories, different members of the crew become Sinbad for that story, and the actor playing Sinbad becomes one of the other characters of the story. Confused? This is a problem with the play. It is a very clever, theatrical production. It has a minimal set and the cast of seven play at least twenty different characters between them, and there are lots of clever theatrical tools and clever imagery employed, but I think it should be for maybe eleven years old and up, not the advertised six year old plus.
But I didn’t want to make assumptions, so during the interval, I spoke to some of the families in the audience with younger children. Pretty much every conversation went
Me – “What do you think of the play?”
Child – “OK”
Me – Do you understand what is happening?”
Child – “Sort of”
Me – “Did the Old Man of the Sea puppet scare you?”
Child – “Yes”
And the parents universally agreed that it was not really suitable for their children.
However, if you have older children and fancy something totally different from a pantomime this Christmas, then this might be for you. I was disappointed that Sinbad was more a bald, slightly overweight bloke in a tartan jacket and not the Arabian swashbuckling hero I grew up wanting to be, but once you got your head around this being a modern interpretation about Sinbad at the end of his adventures, it was a clever, funny and entertaining show.
The Old Man of the Sea is an excellent puppet. How they portray the giant is funny and clever, the royal wedding dance is amusing, the acting is very solid and there are several lol’s throughout the whole performance. It is a clever piece of theatre, but because of all the clever bits, I definitely think that it’s the audience needs to be older to really to understand the theatrical techniques employed to really get value for money from the ticket price.
Sinbad the Sailor is on at Tobacco Factory Theatres until 12th Jan 2014
– Review by Ade Bowen from Action Pussycat