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The Arabian Nights

Brian Seward
I Theatre
Singapore Airlines Theatre, Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore

Hang Qian Chou as Virtuous and Dwayne Lau as Truthful in The Merchant From Sindah with Daphne Ong and Candice de Rozario as musicians Credit: [email protected]
Hang Qian Chou as Virtuous and Dwayne Lau as Truthful in The Merchant From Sindah with Daphne Ong and Candice de Rozario as musicians Credit: [email protected]
Edward Choy and Julie Wee as Shahrazad and Shahryar Credit: [email protected]
Dwayne Lau as Thief 8, Candice de Rozario as Thief 39, Faizal Abdullah as Khawajah The Chief Thief, Hang Qian Chou as Thief 40 and Julie Wee as Thief 10 in Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves Credit: [email protected]

I Theatre, a company set up by Briton Brian Seward, specialises in children’s shows that also can appeal to adults.

Their latest show The Arabian Nights, now playing at Singapore Airlines Theatre at Lasalle College of Arts, is witness to this, the ability to engage adults and children with pure entertainment but also great storytelling ability.

This show is, in fact, all about storytelling and the fascinating world of fairy tales.

Based on the classic story, also known as One Thousand and One Nights, of Princess Shahrazad escaping decapitation thanks to her ability to tell stories, the show moves swiftly through some of the most captivating from the collection: "Aladdin‘s Wonderful Lamp", "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves", "The Hunchback’s Tale", "The Seven Voyages of Sinbad", "The Mouse and the Weasel", etc.

Divided into two acts, the show is fluid, coherent and full of humour. The small cast of seven shows great skills in moving from dance, mime, comedy and puppetry and they work all well together in great unison.

The first act is all about music, singing, and comedy: the three guards (Abdullah as Hamid, Hang Qian Chou as Husain and Dwayne Lau as Harun) together with Dalilah (Candice De Rozario) the veteran servant of the King’s household act out the words of the Princess, while King Shahriyar (Edward Choy) stays a grumpy spectator. The second half opens straight away with another story, "The Seven Voyages of Sinbad”, which sees all the cast involved in a long musical sequence. This sets out the tone of the second act where the King also becomes part of action.

The second half is more playful and varied and the use of puppetry (Orvis Evans) enhances the show to a different level; it is simple and effective in creating laughs and cheers in the children’s audience and big smiles on the faces of the adults, who might remember the good old days without video games and computer animation.

The set (Eucien Chia) is classic with an oriental feel and bright colours. The music by well-known Bang Wenfu is quite overpowering and sentimental but appropriately so. From the cast, Dwayne Lau is the funniest as the new guard at the King’s court and Candice De Rozario (Dalilah) and Julie Wee (The Princess) have the best voices.

Much credit has to be given to the director Seward who is also the writer of the show: high technical quality, effective and versatile acting, great comedy timing and above all the ability to pull it all together in a show that could actually compete with some of the best London shows, even West End. With a bigger cast, perhaps, and a bit more grandeur, this is the kind of show that a West End London audience would find agreeable and highly entertaining.

I Theatre company and Brian Seward, the mastermind behind this intelligent and professional troupe, are the forefront of children’s theatre in Singapore and they also tour shows abroad.

Hopefully one of the tours will bring Brian and his company back to the UK.

Reviewer: Mary Mazzilli