OnSet Productions have really taken Arabian Nights – an already wonderful piece of storytelling children’s theatre – and made it into their own. Upon entering the cosy Egg theatre the full cast are already on stage, interacting with the audience and each other and making sure everyone settles in. When the show does begin the actors all gather around as though this really is story time – and what a story time it is!
Arabian Nights follows the king Shahrayar who is full of hateful revenge after his wife cheats on him. He sends a decree that he will marry a new woman each night and then in the morning they will be executed as there are simply no good women in the land. Then, along comes Shahrazad, a wise and beautiful woman, who thinks she can save the kingdom and the king, by each night telling him wonderful, magical stories; about Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Sinbad the Sailor and even Abu Hassan and the Legendary Fart! This eclectic mix of stories enchant the king into letting her live so she can continue her tales. But what will happen when she has no more stories to tell?
The stories in Arabian Nights are all very different, so there really is something for everyone to enjoy in this show. The stories can sometimes be quite violent, but OnSet have managed to make it suitable for children, using creative and sometimes comical choreography and fight sequences. Each actor makes strong and incredibly quick, character choices – very difficult when they are also playing narrators at the same time! Their energy and focus onstage keeps the stories flowing seamlessly.
With so many stories and so many amazing characters it is difficult to pick out a particular favourite, but needless to say all of the actors are great. They use a lot of ensemble and physical sections to really make the story come alive; the actors become horses, giant birds, and even a magical forest! There is also some great use of puppetry, audience participation and hilarious ad-libbing – just about anything you would want from a children’s show!
The set is beautifully designed, with large bookshelves and comfy blankets. Plus lots of different hatches and seemingly random items, which the performers use in some imaginative ways! They use their own accents throughout the show, regardless of character, reminding us that what they are telling are stories. It adds a lovely richness to their performance.
This is a beautiful, magical and creative performance which I think can be enjoyed by children, adults or just big kids alike! It is a wonderful show that the whole family will enjoy.