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Sinbad the Sailor review at Theatre Royal Stratford East, London – ‘a treasure’

The cast of Sinbad the Sailor at Theatre Royal Stratford East, London. Photo: Sharron Wallace

This year’s Theatre Royal Stratford East pantomime is a treasure. It’s funny, smart, accessible and big-hearted. It also has a lot of fun gently subverting panto conventions. In Paul Sirett’s witty take on Sinbad the Sailor, one of the less familiar panto narratives, Julian Capolei’s Sinbad turns out to be a bit of a drip – he prefers writing stories to high seas adventuring – and it’s his sister, Gaby Wong’s Sinbadda who does all the questing along with her monkey-puppet sidekick.

Stratford East regular Michael Bertenshaw ‘s Prince Naw Ze Uzz is an eminently hissable villain, his posh accent dropping whenever people are out of earshot to reveal a voice that’s pure east London – and, as in the Lyric Hammersmith panto, the baddie gets all the best lines.

But it’s Rina Fatania’s genie who owns the show. Looking a bit like an ambulant pea, she’s a delight from the moment she emerges from her bottle-green prison. It’s the genie’s journey we become invested in, especially after a brilliantly meta scene in which all the genies from all the pantos meet up to gab about their masters.

Jonny Amobi – making his panto debut as the man-ravenous Nurse Derriere – is a (relatively) low-key dame debut in his orange culottes but he has an auditorium-filling voice and a strong rapport with the audience.

While Kerry Michael’s colourful, confident production is rather subplot heavy, it plays well to a whole range of ages. Throw in Ben Goffe’s natty tap-dancing, a couple of well-judged topical gags, some genuinely effective stage illusions, and some wry asides about Shakespeare and Stanislavski, and you have one of the most imaginative and entertaining pantos in London.

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Verdict
A playful and inventive seasonal treat, performed with wit and warmth
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