The Thief of Baghdad, Linbury Studio Theatre: Royal Opera House, London
Monday 29 December 2008
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)
Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year
TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Which country would be hardest to invade?
- 2 Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
- 3 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 4 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 5 Royal baby girl born: Duchess of Cambridge's second child will be a princess thanks to Queen
Avengers: Age of Ultron set to make box office history with $84.5m US opening
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
The highly NSFW poster for Gaspar Noé's Love makes Nymphomaniac look like 50 Shades
Red Dwarf returns: Craig Charles quits Coronation Street to return to comedy sci-fi series
New on Netflix UK May 2015: From Fast & Furious 6 to World War Z and Grace and Frankie
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
Indonesia executions live: 'Hysterical' families heard prisoners being shot dead by firing squad
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds