'This is the first production from newly formed Story Pocket Theatre,
and on this evidence, the UK has just accrued a fantastic addition
to the children's theatre family.'
THE SCOTSMAN full review
'So let's hand the final verdict to a four year old: "Amazing,
and a million times funny."'
ONE4ONE full review
'Story Pocket make this zip along with enough flair to match a
thousand Fringe Shows!'
FRINGE REVIEW full review
'A top notch show with high production values'
THREE WEEKS full review
'If you would like your children to be inspired and fuel their
imagination with beautiful stories, Arabian Nights is not to be
missed, it is AWESOME! '
PRIMARY TIMES full review
'...fresh-spun and thrilling...a real treat'
THE LIST full review
'...I heard a young boy say to his dad, 'Thats the best one I've
seen so far.' I could not help but agree'
THE MUMBLE full review
This is the first production from newly formed Story Pocket Theatre, and on this evidence, the UK has just accrued a fantastic addition to the children's theatre family.
It's a sign of the company's ability to breathe new life into old works that their debut outing is something which has been performed endlessly. Yet they make these well-loved, but very well-worn, tales their own.
Few in the audience will be unfamiliar with Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves or Aladdin, but in the hands of this talented trio, they feel fresh and ripe for discovery.
Standing centre-stage is a temple-like structure, which opens up to become Aladdin's cave. To one side stands a throne - the seat of Scheherazade's husband (which also turns into something else, but I won't spoil the surprise). Other than that, everything else, from fishing boats to courtrooms, is left to our imagination.
Which really isn't hard, when the performers do such a fine job of conjuring up scenarios and a multitude of characters purely with their own physicality. Each actor brings versatility and boundless energy to the four tales (The Fisherman and the Genie and The Little Beggar adding to the two more familiar stories). Yasmin Goodwin is equally at home playing the beautiful and clever Scheherazade as one of the aesthetically challenged 40 thieves; William Forde embodies King Shahryar and an amusingly foolish genie; while Luke Pitman is an explosion of facial expressions and bodily contortions, jumping with ease from the lazy Aladdin to a donkey.
Dressed in white costumes, with a few judiciously chosen props and accessories, Story Pocket delivers a gloriously uncluttered example of how engaging, funny and dynamic storytelling can be.
The guide promised "a wonderful world of mysterious marvels" and it truly delivered. Between the mysterious marvels was plenty of slapstick fun, singing, dancing, and constant high energy in the busy room. For those who don't know the tales of 1001 Arabian Nights, Queen Scheherazade has drawn the short straw in being married to Shahryar, a King whose heart-break means he kills his spouses on a daily basis. She buys herself more time by telling him stories each night.
In this instance, the three strong cast from Story Pocket Theatre, as well as playing those two leads feature a story-teller, and the full cast of Aladdin, The Little Beggar, the Fisherman and the Genie, and even Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. That's a lot of characters to make distinct and bring to life, but this cast succeed, and maintain the rapt attention of both their smaller, and larger audience members.
There was dramatic tension, as Scheherazade gets to the end of the 1000 tales she knows, but it was worth it. So let's hand the final verdict to a four year old: "Amazing, and a million times funny."
'These tales are told in an inventive and fun way with 3 storytellers, the richness of the stories of yesteryear and creative fun. Story Pocket make this zip along with enough flair to match a thousand Fringe Shows!'
The storyteller (Luke Pitman) has forgotten his name because it is so long since he used it. He has also forgotten the name of his two storytelling friends. We should not worry as they become the characters in the tale with which he shall delight us this morning. The overarching story is all about the Sultan (William Forde) and his wife, Sherazade (Yasmin Goodwin). The Sultan has been married over a 1,000 times before as the day after the wedding he kills the women he marries. This is because at some point he was betrayed by his wife and vowed never to be so again - thus he just kills all the women that he marries. His new wife though manages to keep him from tiring of her by telling stories each and every night until she runs out. In the meantime she treats us and him to Ali Baba and the 40 thieves, the Fisherman and the Genie, Little Beggar and Aladdin. In the end the Sultan changes his mind, history and the fate of his last wife.
This was very well written with plenty of scope for slap stick and comedy. I did think at the beginning that it took a wee bit to get going but the performances soon had the audience - nearly full house and plenty of target audience - enthralled.
All 3 performers were exceptional, however Liam Pitman as the storyteller is what gives it zing. His madcap performance as number 9 and as the donkey - amongst many others - keeps the kids totally engaged early on thus allowing Yasmin Goodwin as Sherazade and others and William Forde as the Sultan and many others to breath and inhabit the piece with sensitivity and poignancy. It is a balancing act that was managed well though I was always glad to have the foils there to keep the madness in check.
Francine Huin Wah's design is wonderful. We have a large white bulb centre stage that is opened - by sesame and other mechanisms - to allow us access to more of the story and the environment in which these fantastic tales are told. Special mention should also go to how the Little Beggar appears - a tremendously inventive method of getting a puppet onstage.Between the lighting, the soundscape and the shadow puppetry we got enough theatre arts to help the story along. It was great to have such a set in which the actors could perform and whilst it was not a major design feat it allowed more context for the audience.
This was a great performance within a great setting that demonstrated that you can put on an hour's worth for kids and keep them rapt. The writing was supplemented by great performances that allowed the audience (big kids and little ones too) to ooh and ahh in equal measure whilst keeping an eye on the storytelling process. By the end all the kids had spent time with one of the greatest sets of stories ever told and I am sure they will be talking about it all for a long time to come.
The premise of Arabian Nights doesn't really sound like a show suitable for children. Sheherazade has just married the king but as he was betrayed by his first wife he sentences each bride to death after just one day of marriage. To delay her execution Sheherazade begins to tell the king of all the stories she knows and his interest in her grows and she begins to hope that she won't meet the same fate as his previous 1,000 wives.
The actual storytelling in Arabian Nights is nothing short of magical. The talented three-strong cast play over fifty roles using very basic costume changes. The piece has been cleverly created and whole situations are changed with the addition of a hat or glasses.
The stories told are a little darker than I expected as most involve some form of murder. The performers keep it light hearted and very entertaining especially the main narrator/storyteller in the play. They cover Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, The Fisherman and the Genie, The Little Beggar and Aladdin.
The main set piece is simple but very effective and the actors make good use of it during scene changes. The lighting and music is subtle and also used well. At the beginning of the performance the audience are quite involved as the Storyteller greets everyone on their way in and has a bit of fun with the front row. This runs into the first story slightly but it is not a heavily interactive show as some of the families in attendance might have thought; however, the storytelling is done in such a way that it captivates the entire audience and nobody gets restless.
This is a brilliant play for children of any age, and for their parents too. From the beginning the room was mesmerised by a cast of three highly talented actors who shifted ably from role to role, drawing us in with equal helpings of high drama and belly-laugh inducing comedy. The Story of Scheherazade and her king is well known, as are her tales of genies, lamps, secret caves and thieves, but there is nothing over-familiar or stale about this performance. Each vignette is briskly paced, and features well defined and beautifully rendered characters, while the well-designed and evocative set is slickly used to create a range of different environments. A top notch show with high production values.
Primary Times Reader Review Quote: 'If you would like your children to be inspired and fuel their imagination with beautiful stories, Arabian Nights is not to be missed, it is AWESOME! '
Absolutely BRILLIANT! Even before we got to our seats, we were ushered in a comical fashion, past the stage by the Story Teller (Luke Pitman) who gave me the feeling the show was definitely going to be something special.
The Story Teller began by asking us to close our eyes and not to be afraid of the dark, as the hues of light became warmer behind our eyes as the lights came up, we were transported in our minds to Arabian Nights and the story of Princess Scheherazade and how she began to tell her husband stories in order to save her life.
The stories include Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, The Fisherman and The Genie, Aladdin and his Lamp, and The Little Beggar.
This trio of performers (Luke Pitman, Yasmin Goodwin and William Forde) was outstanding in their performance, born story tellers, with their body language and facial expressions, adults and children alike were giggling in their seats. They were fantastically animated and passionate with their portrayals of the various characters they embodied. Their acting and singing skills were very impressive and the audience was captivated throughout, with whoops and cheers of applause at the conclusion of the show.
The scenery is simple but very beautiful with a white onion shape-like dome that splits into three sections and illuminated with different lights to accommodate the various magical scenes. Evie, age 4 said, "It was AWESOME! I loved the beautiful princess".
After the show we were able to purchase finger-puppets of characters from the show and we were able to recreate the magical stories and continue to stir our imagination at home. It was fantastic to watch this show, which was so inventive and exciting. Even though the show was an hour long the show flew by and only wish it could have gone on to complete Scheherazade's 1,001 stories. If you would like your children to be inspired and fuel their imagination with beautiful stories, Arabian Nights is not to be missed, it is AWESOME!
Arabian Nights is all the things children's theatre should be. Its fun, its interactive, and it tells an enchanting story....a show anyone who likes fun will enjoy.
A story of a storyteller, set many hundreds of years ago, the clever Sheherazade begins to tell her husband stories to save her own life. She is known to have told 1,001 in total and Story Pocket Theatre execute a handful of their top picks featuring forty thieves, a fisherman, a little beggar, Aladin, and finally her own, yet to be completed account: each a sprinkle of magic before the children's sparking eyes. The cast of three morph into numerous roles with fantastic physicallity, only aided by the ocassional changing of a motif clothing item. A highlight was the crafting of forty theives...okay so they may have skipped a few, but we were still introduced to a good 15 differently voiced rogues in around 30 seconds by the terrifically talented performers!
The simple set was used beautifully by the actors: a teardrop shape split into four segments. Ocassional shadow work was introduced into the piece. A totally unexpected puppet appearance right in front of my eyes left me frowning in astonishment at the genius of the design.
The actors excitable and over the top characterisation was captivating, with Luke Pitman's performance standing out. He commited to his exuburant expressions and poise, greeting the audience as they entered the theatre in the role of the playful puppet-master, he guided into and led us out of the animated world.
The story was clear and lively and the perfect thing for a relatively early morning; striking up children's imagination for the busy day ahead...although it's aimed at the littler-ones, it's definitely a show anyone who likes to have fun will enjoy.
Friendly piece of children's storytelling theatre exploring classic tales fresh-spun and thrilling, Story Pocket Theatre's take on the tales of the Arabian Nights is as fine and friendly a piece of storytelling theatre as you are likely to find at the Fringe this year.
You don't get many of the 1001 nights in an hour, but the company manage to squeeze in a satisfying handful. They start with Ali Baba and his 40 thieves, dip into a few less well known stories such as The Little Beggar, swing by a quick Aladdin and end up with the most important one of all, that of Scheherazade the clever bride who subdues her husband the king's rage with stories.
It's all led off by Luke Pitman, a twisting, engaging and hugely physical actor. He draws the whole together, setting up his first story before splitting open the shimmering white minaret which makes up the stage's only set to reveal his Scheherazade, Yasmin Goodwin, and her grumpy king, William Forde. Swapping roles as quickly as they swap hats, making light use of the occasional puppet and mixing up the dark side of the stories with bright jewels of comedy, the three ensure that the hour passes in double time. A real treat.
A shining white oriental-style dome which becomes palace, cave and shop, forms the focus for Story Pocket Theatre's highly entertaining staging of four favourite tales from 1001 Nights - Ali Baba, the Fisherman and the Genie, Little Beggar and Aladdin. Scheherazade's nightly storytelling to her royal husband bursts into mini-dramas as the three-member cast transform into her legendary characters through music, dance and dialogue - and frequent costume changes, as bejewelled headgear and swirling dark cloaks bestow atmospheric effect. Polished costume and character changes well accomplish the twists and turns in Little Beggar, and pantomime-style songs - We are Thieves is especially funny - and David Perkins' Middle East-evocative music, help power the pace between briefly solemn court interludes.
William Forde switches readily between stern prince and genies evil or obliging, Yasmin Goodwin compels attention as a winsome Scheherazade and much else besides, while Luke Pitman is splendidly physical in a bewildering range of noisy and face-stretching roles. Julia Black and Adam Forde's direction finely co-ordinates the fast-paced action in this enthralling retelling of time-hallowed tales.
The remit of Story Pocket Theatre, set up in 2013, is to keep classic stories alive & to perform them with as much beauty as possible - & this hour-long version of ' One Thousand & One Nights' & certainly realises their dream. Like Chaucer's Cantebury Tales, & Bocaccio's Decameron, the Persian One Thousand and One Nights is a collection of stories held together loosely by an over-plot. In this case the ruler Shahryar has ordered the execution of his wife, Scheherazade, who delays this event by telling him a story every night.
In this version, our three cast members skip across the stage, move scenery, change coustumes & alter voices in such a pleasant & dreamy fashion, there is nothing but a positive energy in the room. The timelessness of several of these classic tales is brought to life, the highlight I believe is the tale of the Little Beggar, into which is introduced a puppet. Next comes the more famous tale of Aladdin, after which the show ends with a moment of touching beauty, as the king & his queen are reunited as two sillouhetted puppets.
As I was leaving the theater, I heard a young boy say to his dad, 'Thats the best one I've seen so far.' I could not help but agree, which really tipped the balance for me when awarding the stars. I loved it, the kid-in-me loved it, & the word on the street with the other kids is thats its brilliant, so here's a happy five stars.
'Watching Story Pocket Theatre's début production Arabian Nights is like being tucked up in bed on a stormy night and having your dad tell you a bedtime story; a very special moment. The company have put the art of storytelling at the heart of this piece and it interweaves magic with slapstick comedy and deliciously naughty humour.
As the audience walk in, a mischievous mute (Luke Pitman) greets them with waggling fingers, raspberries, mimed declarations of love and a rather nifty trick with some strawberry laces. Pitman acts as a Puck-like character called The Storyteller who invites the audience not to be afraid of the dark because there is always light in your imagination.
Pitman is extraordinary. He's the imaginary friend you always wanted and has both children and adults peeling into giggles with his face (which we can only assume is made out of rubber) and full-throttle physical comedy.
Yasmin Goodwin and William Forde take on the roles of a storyteller Sherazade and her husband the Sultan, while also multi-roling as various characters in Sherazade's stories.
Forde comes into his own as Abanazar during the Aladdin tale and Goodwin keeps the show from descending into riotous abandon with her sweet nature. The set by Francine Huin-Wah is minimal but extremely beautiful with a giant bulb-like sculpture peeling away to reveal different layers and providing the suggestion of far off lands.
Similarly, the lighting creates a magical atmosphere and makes it seem as if Pitman is inviting the audience into a long forgotten secret. Julia Black and Forde's direction keeps the piece at a consistent pace and they have clearly played to their actors' strengths allowing them to run wild.
Story Pocket Theatre have created a rare piece of children's theatre. It not only delights children, but also takes adults back to a time when hearing a bedtime story was the best part of the day. It is fuel for the imagination with Pitman as the match that will ignite it.'
A MAGICAL JOURNEY
There was an exciting event at the Mill Studio at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre last week. Not just the first performance of Arabian Nights, but the launch of a brand new Guildford-based company. It's called Story Pocket Theatre and its inaugural tour will include Bath, Aldershot, West Totton and Wimbledon before reaching the Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Festival.
Later in the year they'll be on the road again with their second production The Nutcracker.
If the show I saw is typical of the work of this newborn company, they'll be playing to audiences of children and adults, all of them completely absorbed, all of them delighted.
'Everyone loves stories, and that's what we want to do. Tell stories.' And what better vehicle than Arabian Nights. There's 1001 of them. Potentially. We had four. Four stories, which took you, starry eyed, into another world, exciting, captivating, and best of all, funny.
The little boy sitting behind me was laughing so much it made you grin from ear to ear just to hear him.
'Shut your eyes,' says the storyteller. 'Is it dark?' And he describes the scene. As he describes it you can feel the heat, you can smell the camels.
'Open your eyes,' he says, and there, in front of you is an onion domed tent, glowing a hot orange in the heat. And the first story begins.
Ali Baba and the 40 theives. You know there are 40 because the three actors take a roll call. We're back in the world of magic and make believe. The talented trio of actors were perfect. Luke Pitman, 'the cleverest and greatest of all storytellers' had us in the palm of his hand from the word go.
He's expert in the art of physical comedy and with a real connection to the audience. The King and Sheherazade (William Forde and Yasmin Goodwin), both beautiful, both richly comic, became, with the aid of varied headgear, whoever they needed to be.
And if the cast were a gift to the directors, so too were the directors to the cast. They had created a show (for four-year-olds upwards) which goes like an express train and which was constantly funny. Add a couple of jolly little song and dance numbers and you've got a show which is perfect for children.
The adults rediscovered their imagination. The children, of course, had never lost it and for an hour we were all in another world. There was once a troupe of actors who called themselves Story Pocket Theatre and they lived happily ever after. They certainly deserve to.
'Set many centuries ago, Arabian Nights is a mystical spectacle of story-telling, song, dance and puppetry.
It all starts when young bride-to-be Sheherazade (played by versatile actress Yasmin Goodwin) fires her husband's imagination with 1,001 fairy tales to save herself from execution at the hands of her husband (charming, I know). The tales she recounts include classic, much-loved children's favourites Aladdin, Ali Barber and The Little Beggar.
Highly accomplished mime artist Luke Pitman sets the scene as he instructs the audience to "close your eyes and don't be afraid." His voice has a hypnotic effect as he transports the audience out of reality and into a "bubble" world of fantasy where there's "just hot sun and no clouds." As he weaves his spells of magic your mind almost feels as if it's being whisked away from reality.
The production has been predominately written for children but it's also suitable for adults. The narrative is engaging and flits between a character telling a story within a story within the story and sometimes a character in that story telling the story within the story (keep up darling).
We're reminded that the art of story-telling is a based on tales of life events which have became enhanced or twisted as the story is re-told. In true time-honoured tradition, the tales created in Arabian Nights are based on cruelty, abuse, humiliation and thieving with the common goal to accumulate riches at whatever cost.
On a more cheery note, just where can you get one of those genies? Just imagine. "Your wish is my desire." The genie was played admirably by William Forde. I also enjoyed the irony of the 40 thieves who couldn't admit to their vices of stealing. Some things never change!
The first night of this slick and witty public showing was met with cheers from the audience and the show will be touring regional theatres. Specially designed finger puppets have been created as mementos of the show - yay!'
Decent children’s theatre is hard to put on. If you want to entertain and inform you must do it without being patronising and you must hold their attention. It’s a bit of a bonus if you appeal to adults too.
Story Pocket Theatre does just this. Its first production, Arabian Nights, performed at The Mill Studio, Guildford, this month and heading for The West End Centre, Aldershot, on May 29 (2.30pm as it is half-term) is a joy for adults and children alike.
A cast of three – William Forde, Yasmin Goodwin and Luke Pitman – tell stories from the Arabian Nights, those stories (allegedly 1,001) collected from Asia and North Africa, which were supposed to be the tales told by young Scheherazade to save herself from execution.
Using a simple set, what seems to be an onion dome which can separate and become many props, and simple costumes, they tell of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp, The Fisherman and the Genie, and The Little Beggar. In doing so they pretend to be thieves, merchants and magical creatures; to ride donkeys, eat meals, go fishing, climb mountains; to be full of fear and to fall in love. There are just the three of them and the stage is small and plain, but they convey colour, a large cast and a larger landscape.
They also use humour, lots of it, and the audience – children and adults – shrieked with laughter.
With direction by Julia Black and Adam Forde and backing by Michael Morpurgo, a man who knows what he is talking about when it comes to holding children’s attention, this is excellent theatre from a new company. I highly recommend them.