London Bubble’s Tales from the Arabian Nights review – ‘moments of boredom and brilliance’
South-east London company London Bubble’s return to promenade theatre after seven years with Tales from the Arabian Nights is a welcome one – at least in theory. A series of stories performed by an eager ensemble, the show takes place in sections of Greenwich Park.
Farhana Sheikh’s script has moments of poignancy, is relatively funny when it needs to be and maintains a pantomime-like sense of fun throughout. Unexceptional at times, the acting is nevertheless enthusiastic. The comic timing of Russeni Fisher’s stoned fisherman is a highlight, as is Leila Ayad and Rose-Marie Christian’s closing turn as the quarrelling but fearful Shaharazade and Dinarzad.
Regardless of claims the play is family-friendly, the plot feels fairly unconcerned with the younger members of its audience. Physical comedy – so often an easy way to keep kids entertained lessens as the scenes go on, while the script boasts a number of adult-pitched sexual innuendos that clearly go far over the kids’ heads.
The play is also simply too long. Clocking in at two and a half hours, Tales of the Arabian Nights could easily lose 45 minutes. In the final hour, audience members grow visibly restless, and the lack of natural light towards the end sometimes leaves them walking in total darkness. The play’s sparse design also feels quite cheap; alongside the lack of artificial light between stages, a few more interesting props would not go amiss.