"Arabian nights gets reduced treatment"
by Cameron Dunham for remotegoat on 15/12/13

The Blue Elephant theatre in Camberwell, nestling in a labyrinth of foreboding tower blocks, is something of a cultural oasis. You know when you've arrived as the surrounding street lights are glowing, blue elephants: a helpful, visual clue on a dark and rainy December evening. Such an evening was December 14th, when I chose to see Hammer and Tongs production of Arabian Nights and, whilst my journey to the venue was a slight odyssey, the trip proved very worthwhile.

The production successfully straddles the reduced theatre style and something resembling pantomime as a number of the tales are whistled through at a breakneck speed. The central narrative involves plucky heroine, Scheherezade, having to tell her jealous husband, the king, a number of fantastical tales in order to waylay her execution. This gives the uniformly excellent cast a platform to showcase their impressive array of performance skills. The myriad of characters are nicely differentiated through use of accents, physicality and rubber faced expressions: from the programme I would deduce that this young troupe are working together for the first time but their teamwork on stage would suggest otherwise: this is a spledidly collaborative effort.

In a small cast of talented actors, particular mention goes to Kate Millest whose voice shows extraordinary versatility and who has a confidence and presence that brought life to the multitude of roles required of her; she was utterly watchable throughout.

This adaptation proved to be a witty and accessible introduction for those unfamiliar with the Arabian Nights and a pleasantly light hearted take for those who were. The set design worked well within the confines of its necessary simplicity, proving the old adage that less is more and George Mackenzie-Lowe managed to bring imagination and variety to his one man soundtrack.

All in all, this was a great night out at a wonderful, little theatre. I did wonder at the relatively late timing for such an obviously, family friendly show but there were a number of tweens in evidence so maybe that's just how they roll in Camberwell.

Keep an eye on this bunch: any group that can create such an entertaining, three headed genie with zero special effects budget is definitely doing something right!

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