The weather outside is frightful, but inside the Blue Elephant Theatre, Camberwell the atmosphere is certainly delightful. An exciting cast and exotic story makes this Cub’s pick of the pantomimes.
The moment you step into the compact theatre, the minimalist set transports you to Arabia. Despite the restrictions on space – Blue Elephant Theatre offers an exclusive viewing experience to about 50 audience members at a time – the bright colours and engaging decorations set the scene for some Arabian tales of princes and princesses in far off lands.
The play is Arabian Nights, and a chirpy and chatty Scheherazade (you can call her Shaz) greets you and helps set the scene of a heartbroken king who marries new women every day to have them executed the next morning. In order to try and stop the bloodbath, before the kingdom runs out of women, Scheherazade nominates herself to marry the King, and starts telling him stories so compelling that he manages to put off her execution just one day more.
In just an hour, the ensemble cast of five takes the audience to far flung and exotic destinations, where horses can fly, where men are turned into bees, where princesses are rescued from Genies, and eventually where murderous Kings have their hearts softened . A highly physical performance, the stripped back set and clothing enables the cast to capture your imaginations; a box helps a prince and princess ride an ebony horse, three actors can make a terrifying genie, and
James Weal will provide you with the most convincing interpretation of a crab you will ever encounter. Despite spatial limitations, they keep their promise of exciting you, of scaring you and of making you go “awww.”
Interwoven with this magical carpet of panto gold are stunning sound effects coming from George Mackenzie-Lowe, who sets the scene of a vast Arabia using his guitar, sitar and even some plastic bottles. Complimenting the energetic performances of such a charismatic cast is no mean feat, and as a whole, Hammer & Tongs theatre have managed to cast a spell over their audiences with their fun-filled and fantastical foray into the Far East.
And if the sprinkling of cheese is not quite enough to satisfy your Christmassy cravings, there’s even a dress up box and photo frame for you to Instagram, Tweet or Facebook your festive experiences to everyone you know.
Arabian Nights is on until the 14th December. Tickets for students are £10 and the nearest Tube to the Blue Elephant Theatre is Oval.