Saikat Ahamed, Suzanne Ahmet, Meline Danielewicz, Felix Hayes, Remi Tawose
The Traveling Light Theatre company has been creating productions for 25 years and this Christmas they have joined forces with Bristol’s Tobacco Factory Theatre for a magical retelling of the folk tale from The Thousand and One Nights.
Best known for their work with young audiences, Travelling Light’s show perfectly demonstrates their skills in this area.
In Sally Cookson’s charming production, a cast of six mamange to delight those of all ages: kids and their parants, school groups, everyone – which is no mean feat.
The production is staged in the round, which serves the story extremely – it allows the performers to move around with gusto and make contact with audience members in a way that cannot be achieved in a more traditional staging. Cookson’s clever use of the Tobacco Factory space also makes use of the four integral pillars, turning them into trees and places to hide behind.
The narrative moves along at an almost frantic pace, which proves both exciting and engaging for children in the audience – but there’s room for a good few jokes for the older audience members as well.
The small cast are excellent. Saikat Ahamed is extremely lovable in the title role, while Felix Hayes is suitably frightening as the Captain of the Thieves. One moment he’s terrifying the children in the audience and the next he’s making them explode with laughter; he also plays Ali Babas sister-in-law and is a delight in this very different role too. In fact all the members of this tight ensemble demonstrate real skill in the way they seamlessly slip between roles.
One of overwhelming highlights of the production is the inspired use of childrens toys of the Action Man variety as stand-ins for the 40 thieves; a simple yet instantly effective – and entertaining – device.
Benji Bowers masterful use of a variety of both familiar and not so familiar instruments provides a striking musical accompaniment to events on stage. The songs really enhance the telling of the story and the music is particularly strong in the way it conveys the bustle of Ali Babas hometown.
Cookson’s production gets across its message – that people should be happy with what they have and that greed can only lead to a fall – in a manner that is never forced or intrusive. It’s an apt sentiment in the current social climate and the company makes a statement without ever being preachy.
This is a highly successful production; elegantly simple in its design, it cleverly reworks the familiar story in a way the whole age spectrum of the audience can appreciate. The cast are energetic and engaging and the younger members of the audience really seemed dazzled and excited by the whole experience.