Against our better judgement, we headed to the Unity Theatre in hope of a Christmas miracle – the panto we can all enjoy!
We’re self-confessed panto-phobes (we just made the word up now, okay?) here at The Double Negative. Can there be anything worse than cringe-inducing audience participation sing-alongs in a theatre packed with mouthy kids? This in mind, going to see ‘festive treat’ Sinbad was either going to be a nightmare or an opportunity to prove us wrong.
We’ll put you out of your misery, without reservation, the experience proved to be the latter. The most hard-hearted amongst us could not fail to be charmed by this production. Aimed squarely at a young audience, but garnering laughs from the adults too, we follow Sinbad, hero of the seas, and his friend Khaladen, on a journey through mysterious islands and faraway kingdoms.
The small stage of the Unity is utilised brilliantly, set design particularly is fantastic; a simple Bedouin Tent dresses the stage (designed by LIPA third year students Katie Scott and Emily Youell), becoming in turns the desert, a packed Souk, the belly of a whale, and an ogre’s castle. The use of minimal props, lighting and clever silhouette mean audience imagination is easily fired. Featuring a theatrical debut by Rebecca Riley – stealing the show as the superb, blow-hard baddie, Captain Kora – the six actors look like they’ve raided the dressing up box, adding to the charm of a young, ’homemade’ production.
We must also mention some of the winning tunes which hark back to the child-like enjoyment gleaned from simple (but amusing) rhymes, delivered with gusto by the cast. Equal enthusiasm was brought to bear in the couple of action set-pieces which required Sinbad defend himself against a winged beast and fight to preserve the honour of the beautiful Princess Amena.
The six cast members, engaging and sweet, explain the importance of love and friendship through singing, dancing and puppetry. Provided by Liverpool arts collective, Puppet Pool, the well-crafted characters (including the Genie of the Lamp, and the child of that winged beast we mentioned) added a layer of playful transformation, with an alter-ego puppet for each of the central characters.
Directed by the returning Graeme Phillips, this production of Sinbad – a master-class in old-fashioned storytelling – demonstrates the importance of craft over scale, but also that even the biggest grinches can be moved to booing and cheering when given the right excuse.
The Voyages of Sinbad The Sailor, Unity Theatre, until Sunday 22nd January
Adults £12 (concessions, £10), children £7