Saturday, 17 December 2016

REVIEW: Sinbad the Sailor at Theatre Royal Stratford East

The Theatre Royal Stratford East owes a big part of its history to panto, especially from the Fifties, when a production of Alice in Wonderland contributed to resuming the regular activities of the financially troubled venue. For the 2016 season, what’s tagged as ‘the people’s theatre’ proposes two alternative titles, with Sinbad the Sailor opening just one day after Rapunzel.

Under Paul Sirett’s pen, the Middle Eastern tale of a fearless sailor defying the seven seas becomes the misadventure of a clumsy boy, bravely supported by his sister Sinbadda (Gabby Wong) and the loyal ape Funky Monky (Gemma Salter). Contending the hand of the Princess (Marianna Neofitou) with the ruthless Prince Naw-Ze Uzz (Michael Bertenshaw), Sinbad (Julian Capolei) is challenged by the Sultan her father (Ben Goffe) to retrieve a golden casket from a desert island. Sinbad embarks on the adventure with the company of Sinbadda, Monky, the Nurse (Johnny Amobi in drag) and the disguised Princess herself. Despite the interference of some pesky pirates, the happy ending is guaranteed, as well as the redemption of the villain and ‘Oh yes, it is’ shouted aplenty.

The cast provides a fine selection of voices. Johnny Amobi’s medley allows him to display his vocal range in full, whereas Alim Jayda, in the role of Captain Green Beard, and Josephine Melville, playing the pirate Clanker, are underused for the skills hinted in their brief appearances.

The show seems designed mainly for the little ones, with colourful set and costumes that ditch elaborate details for bright and elementary shapes. Kamilah Beckles’ choreography is simple and engaging, whilst the catchy tunes (written by Wayne Nunes and Perry Melius) are accompanied by easy-to-remember lyrics and invitations to sing along. Some unavoidable innuendos and political references keep the adults entertained and a series of special effects (created by master Scott Penrose) wows the entire audience.

The overall participation is loud and enthusiastic throughout the evening, creating a cosy

environment where everyone seems to feel at home. Loyal to its mission of offering an unforgettable experience for the whole family, Sinbad the Sailor is set in a warm and welcoming space, where the front of house staff are happy to host crying toddlers and let people stream in and out the auditorium.

Missing from the Theatre Royal Stratford East since its second appearance in 1981, Sinbad the Sailor is a great show for a family evening out, especially if you have young children and are looking for a laid-back vibe with captivating audiovisuals. 

Review by Marianna Meloni 
Rating: ★★★★
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