IT takes a moment or two at the start of The Arabian Nights to understand that two stall-holders aren’t actually speaking to each other as they walk their puppet dogs. Rather, they are just the operators and it is the dogs that are speaking. As puppetry goes, War Horse this is not.
ROYAL LYCEUM, Grindlay Street
Played out on Francis O’Connor’s beautifully simple and inventive set, which transforms from old Baghdad bazaar to the Sultan’s palace and other exotic locations as required, this Christmas production from the Lyceum fails to ignite.
The age-old tale of Scheherazade, the storyteller who saves the day by keeping the evil Sultan entertained by telling him stories, has been told many times.
In this offering, her mission is to free her mother and all the other market stall-holders that the Sultan has had imprisoned.
Telling stories of Sinbad the sailor, Ali Baba, mysterious genies, a chess-playing monkey and numerous heroes and villains, Scheherazade does indeed achieve her goal, which is more than can be said for this lack lustre production.
Half-hearted attempts at audience participation are abandoned as quickly as they are initiated while writer Suhayla El-Bushra’s fascination with scatological humour becomes tiresome.
Children find farts and poo funny, yes, but not when shoe-horned into the action just for the sake of it. No one laughed.
Songs are forgettable at best and downright annoying at worst, the fact few of the cast are singers seems to have been over-looked.
Bringing the piece to life a 10-strong cast flit from character to character with various degrees of success.
Nicholas Karimi’s Sultan is a lightweight creation, while Rehanna MacDonald’s Scheherezade fails to hold the attention.
Faring better, Neshla Caplan as her mother is more engaging, although the casting of the pair as mother and daughter is problematic age wise.
Only Taryam Boyd and Patricia Panther capture the energy and presence required throughout and are impressive in multiple roles.
Over-long, this Arabian Nights is so plodding and worthy it strips away all the fun and magic from what should be a fast-paced adventure. Disappointing.
Run ends 7 January 2018