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Nights of Enchantment, Etcetera Theatre

Gillian Pencavel (based on 1001 Arabian Nights)
Directed by Alice Sillett

★★★★

Pros: Impressively passionate and physical with excellent use of masks and puppets. Fun and moving at the same time.

Cons: The use of several characters per actor without clear signposting is confusing at times.

Our Verdict: A very enjoyable play, with brilliant dance, physical theatre, voice, puppets and masks.

Courtesy of Tree Folk Theatre

The story may have been told endless times and performed in all shapes and forms in theatres all across the globe yet it still remains one of the most original, fascinating and magical tales of all time. Even after hundreds of years, it still captivates us with its gruesome balance of blood and love, tears and joy, tragedy and comedy. Alice Sillett certainly does her magic here: simple yet beautifully crafted masks – many puppets in all shapes and sizes which work in harmony thanks to the impressive skills of this youthful group.

As soon as the cruel Sultan’s mask is skillfully brought to life by an inspiring Amy Lawrence, one can’t help but feel sudden anguish at the thought of all those young women being beheaded for the Sultan’s pleasure. And when he finally threatens to behead his beautiful consort Sheherazade – her red mask guided by the equally skilful Sarita Plowman – she suggests to him the gift of a new story every night in exchange for her life. The little caveat of course being that the Sultan must enjoy the story. A whirlpool of puppets and stories materializes in front of the audience, all richly emotional and truly magical, all brought to life by the dynamic group and fittingly humanized to hilarious effect. I enjoyed all of the puppets’ characters: from the audacious sister (Liisa Linheim) and her two brothers (William Vercelli and Raphael Richards) to the wise-cracking bird and the greedy giant Genie. The latter two were undeniably the most hilarious additions, perhaps only marginally overtaken by a tremendously funny wise man (Abigail Dempsey).

The colourful scarves, dancing, singing and character changes all ensured the show was kept at a high pace throughout. Perhaps the play may have been a bit confusing at times with all those changing characters and stories and certainly the quality of the materials reflected a fringe budget. However, credit must be given to clever writing and an impressive performance by the group. This is a thoroughly enjoyable night at the Etcetera. Well done Tree Folk Theatre!

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Nights of Enchantment runs at Etcetera Theatre until Saturday 16th March 2013
Box Office: 020 7482 4857 or book online at https://shop.ticketscript.com/channel/web2/start-order/rid/FBWYQF4D/language/en

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