Writer: Connor Wray
Director: Ellie Hurt
Reviewer: John Roberts
West Kirby based Off the Ground have been touring open-air theatre productions around the UK and Ireland for 23 years, mixing older more established performers and creatives with newly graduated professionals and alumni from their own youth theatre. This mixing of old and new brings an incredible spark to the ensemble and a highly enjoyable and energetic performance for us – the audience – to enjoy.
If you attend Sinbad expecting a traditional retelling of the 1001 Arabian Night’s tale, then you have certainly come along to the wrong production. Under Ellie Hurt’s excellent direction, which fuses excellent movement from Grace Goulding and stage fighting from Dan Meigh, alongside Connor Wray’s clever adaptation, which seamlessly fuses elements of the traditional tale with modern-day references, we have a riotous evening of pure ensemble storytelling. A tale and indeed production that is full of comedy (anyone for ten-pin bowling ogres?) and drama (divorces and death) and one that makes the imagination of the audience the most powerful tool in its success.
Here in this fast-paced epic tale, we don’t have huge sets of other touring companies and we are not overloaded with 100’s of costume changes, instead a simple design of blue bottoms and long sleeved vest tops gives us the audience all we need to suggest the maritime nature of the tale, small accentuating elements are added for various characters, but the changes in many roles come from the excellent physical playing from the strong ensemble who create a varied and hysterical bunch of misfits.
As Sinbad the Sailor, Pete Darwent cuts an air of arrogance with aplomb, his celebrity styled sailor is a delight, while Lily Almond’s Sinbad the Porter has a joyous journey throughout the piece and really grows into the part. Nick Crosby gives strong support as Tabassum the pirate full of bombastic gravitas as does Phil Rayner’s Yorkshire seaman, Pinbad the Paler, which is equally matched by his flamboyant portrayal of Mustashar the queens assistant. Kathryn McGurk is strong in a multitude of roles but delights as the thief Sariq.
Writer Connor Wray and Jessica Porter have excellent cameo roles as the ship’s help Siri and Alexa and Adam Martyn is a hoot as the camp servant to Sinbad the Sailor Khadim – likewise the trio of storytelling Jin played by Ciara Durnford, Billy Czajkowska and Felipe Pacheco give a constant reminder that the God’s are in charge of everything, however the stand out performance for this reviewer was Milly Palastre’s hilarious Queen Malika who provided the Bangaram Queen with more attitude than you can shake a stick out.
In the sea of positivity there are small niggles which can and will undoubtedly be ironed out as the tour continues, the main issue is the arguably the first half feels a little too long especially for younger members of the audience – the other is at times, some of the more inexperienced of cast members struggle to battle the outdoor elements to get heard as well as they could do.
Off the Ground’s Sinbad is another excellent production which provides everything you could want from an outdoor family production. As long as they continue to get the formula of great casting, strong direction and excellent storytelling right, then they will continue to produce shows of the highest calibre.
Reviewed on 29 July & is on Tour around UK & Ireland until 19 August 2018 | Image: Contributed