The Thief of Baghdad, Linbury Studio Theatre: Royal Opera House, London

3.00

Will Tuckett's latest family show is an Arabian Nights fantasy that makes a point of storytelling. We don't start with sultans and princesses, but with wartime children creeping into a bombed theatre, where a stage door keeper helps them to act out the stories. It's a mix of invention and insistent theatricality. Tuckett's characters lose momentum by going on about the magic of theatre, but along the way, they find a flying horse and a satisfying magic carpet.

In his works for families, Tuckett mixes speech, movement and inventive stage design. He's a strong producer, good at transformations and unexpected images. But his choreography is limited: he's better at using movement to create atmosphere than at standout numbers.

John Bausor's designs take the shell of the Linbury stage, then turn it into a wrecked theatre. There's a shelled hole at the back, with crumbling brickwork that later becomes the entrance to a magic cave. The war is unspecified, but the sisters Megan and Bee, and their friend Callum, have all lost their families. They meet Christopher Colquhoun's stage door keeper, who starts telling the story. The girls, who are keen to join in, dress up as the princess and her pet monkey. Callum is reluctant, interrupting the tale to complain or sulk, and has to be persuaded back into the narrative. This prompts questions about stories: can these children imagine happy endings?

In the tale and the framing narrative, there's a lot about listening to your heart and being true to your inner prince; an earnest, self-conscious strand in Sarah Woods's script. There's also some unexpected toughness. The children complain they're lost and that the story has tired them without helping.

Meanwhile, Tuckett's staging comes up with some vivid images. The Sultan is given a toy soldier, a modern fighter in camouflage, with tin hat and plastic face. There's a turning key in his back. The dancer crawls like a wind-up toy, twitchy and unpredictable, his face creepily blank.

The winged horse is another soldier. Laura Caldow pulls off her backpack, lifting it up to make a horse head. Caldow's movement, snorts and twitches make the creature believably horsey. Matthew Hart plays the villainous pantomime demon, making unexpected entrances from pianos, vases or holes in the ground. He's sinuous and entertainingly hammy, from his pointy shoes to his Ming the Merciless beard.

To 3 January (020-7304 4000)

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices