site search by freefind advanced

 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Shining Lights - Arabian Nights

12th to 13th December 2003.

Here's the review from the Newbury and Thatcham Chronicle.

Young cast weave tales of Arabia in clever setting

Shining Lights – Arabian Nights, New Greenham Arts Centre

This was not only youth theatre at its best but quality ensemble playing rarely seen on the professional stage. This is not to say the production was faultless.

Director Pete Watt draws on a wide range of talents from the utterly compelling to the barely adequate. Mostly the casting is clever and effective but occasionally weaker cast members were allowed to drag the performance down.

However, cleverness of setting, a child’s nursery filled with toys, and the costumes, a hybrid mix of nightgowns with a hint of the east, allowed the cast to really work together to weave these Arabian tales.

Special mention must be made must be made of Alec Hopkin who player the Vizier, as well as a multitude of other characters. His strong vocal delivery, excellent timing and subtle characterizations often threatened to upstage the others and unsettle the ensemble feel – it is a tribute to him and his director that this never happened.

Holly Sainsbury gave us some delightful comic characters, particularly as the snobbish sister-in-law of Ali Baba, while Jade Buller and Lana Howard had exactly the right combination of gravitas and childish innocence to carry off the different parts of Dinarazard and Shaharazad respectively.

Neil Edlin was a commanding King Sharayar but I felt that he needed to develop a wider vocal range if he is to create more variety in his characters.

Tom Harlland and Shenelle Metha both demonstrated a clear understanding of ensemble playing, creating a variety of delightful characters.

The end of the first act saw an hilarious coup de théâtre when the story of Sinbad the Sailor (breathtakingly delivered by Alec Hopkins) was acted out as a puppet show using various items found in the nursery – action men, a child’s teapot, and Ed the Duck as an evil Rook.

Pete Watt has clearly worked hard at developing these youngsters’ talents and self-belief but his own talent as director should not be undervalued – the clarity of story telling and delicate touches of humour throughout made this a first rate family show. This was Shining Lights first Christmas show, I will be booking early for next year’s and taking the entire family. I suggest you do the same.


And here are some pictures (click on them to see bigger versions).

Shining lights: Arabian Nights cast photo Shining Lights: Arabian Nights - Alec Hopkins