Arabian NightsFebruary 2009
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What troupers! Blizzards and a power failure could not dampen the enthusiasm of the cast and the dedication of the backstage crew. This production encountered so many problems before and during production but still the show went on. In fact it was not one show but four shows in one, presented as stories delightfully told by Queen Scheherazade (Dawn Knight). The evening began with a colourful, action-packed Arabian bazaar with merchants, snake charmer (Margaret Benskin), beggars and beautiful dancing girls (Rachel Chown, Madeleine Cockburn, Katie Parker, Eleanor Parkinson and Georgie Challoner). Scheherazade is much loved for her story-telling and from her luxurious couch in the corner begins to tell her tales…
The Fisherman and the Genie told the timeless story of wishing for longevity and wealth without considering the full implications. Paul Cockburn, in his Eastern costume and Cornish fisherman’s accent brought to life in his inimitable way the conundrum of handling suddenly acquired worldly riches. The conflict this brought him and his wife (Helen Lawrey) was comically told. While waiting for Zaph the builder (Madeleine Cockburn) to construct a palace worthy of their wealth they found themselves increasingly isolated in their cave, with four women (Jean Wilson, Carolyn Licence, Jane Scotting and Pauline Friend) camped at their door seeking financial assistance and outdoing each other in the poverty stakes. (Here mention must be made of Carolyn’s song, accompanied by Paul on guitar and backing group of Jean, Jane and Pauline – Sir Andrew need not have looked any further!) Disenchanted with their predicament the Fisherman and his wife summon the imposing Genie (Jon Cox) for one last time and use their third and final wish to revert to their former situation. In doing so the Genie is set free and all ends well as the Fisherman and his wife learn to be content with what they have.
The excellent coastal set was swiftly changed to a village scene for Ali Baba and the 40 thieves. Ali Baba (Glenn Crane) is helping himself (but only moderately!) to the ill-gotten gains of the thieves stored in a nearby cave. However, his greedy older brother, Kasim (Rachel Chown) brings danger on the village by ‘stealing’ vast quantities from the same source. Neither Ali nor his wife (Katie Parker) are able to think their way out of the trouble but Ali’s faithful servant, Morgiana (Eleanor Parkinson) is equal to the task. The thieves (Ben Parker, Matthew Buchanan, Thomas Cox and Andrew Jordan) played their part with great panache, in spite of much hissing and booing. They coped so well with a power failure at the Friday night performance, that the audience thought it was part of the story! The thieves are eventually overcome whilst hiding in perfectly fitting oil jars but the question remains – did Kasim escape from his pursuers?
At the interval, a roving reporter took sound bites from the audience, enjoying refreshments provided by Jan Luff and team. The feedback included: ‘Excellent as always’; ‘Sets and costumes excellent’; ‘Well up to scratch’; ‘We’ll come again’; ‘Stunning sound effects’ [this comment may not have been unbiased!]; ‘Genie and Yousef absolutely outstanding’ [from the travelling Cox fan-club!]; ‘Excellent guitar-playing fisherman and singer’; ‘Real smoke’!
The second half commenced with the story of The Court Jester. The much-loved jester, Bashir (Matt Buchanan) meets an untimely death laughing too much while eating Turkish Delight! The tailor and his wife (Don and Margaret Benskin) are so worried that they might be accused of his murder that they set up the Doctor and his wife (Geoff and Liz Weller) to take the blame. This quick-thinking pair, to avoid punishment, then post the corpse down the chimney of a Chinese Man (Glenn Crane) much skilled in martial arts! Believing that he has murdered Bashir he props the corpse on the street corner only for a hapless drunk (Tracey Morgan) to take the blame and face arrest by two police officers (Janet Haley and Rosemary Hendy). At the trial the doddery Judge (Paul Cockburn) puts on the black cap and sentences the drunk to death – at which point the other guilty parties fall over themselves to take the blame. All ends well as it transpires that the Sultan (Nathan Bactum), who is present at the trial, is none other than … The Court Jester!
The final story was Aladdin. Can there ever have been such an evil Abanazer as that played by Paul Cockburn. His apoplexy on learning that Aladdin (Angus Challoner) has not perished in the cave but is alive and well left the audience fearing for the health of their Minister! The Sultan (Jon Cox) aappears to deal arbitrarily with the petitions of his subjects (Margaret Benskin, Rosemary Hendy and Geoff Weller) but is won over by Aladdin’s mother (Liz Weller) and the wealth offered him on behalf of Aladdin by three beautiful girls (Rachel Chown, Madeleine Cockburn and Eleanor Parkinson). He agrees to give his daughter (Katie Parker) in marriage to Aladdin.
The Genie (Olly Loosemore) left the audience in no doubt that he is the man to call in for any DIY job as he quickly knocks up a Palace – Bob the Builder beware! Aladdin’s happiness at securing the hand of the princess is short lived as Abanazer tricks the Princess and Fatima (Georgie Challoner) into swapping the old lamp for a new one. Abanazer now takes control of the Genie and carries off the Princess. On finding his daughter abducted, the Sultan throws Aladdin into prison. While pondering his fate he rubs his ring (fortunately recovered from the depths of the cave where it had accidentally been propelled on Saturday night!) and the Spirit of the Ring (Pauline Friend) appears. She scatters her magic dust (one of the many excellent special effects); Aladdin is free to go in pursuit of his beloved. A cunning plan is hatched between the Princess and Fatima, and though Abanazer believes that he is celebrating his success at winning over the princess he is actually being poisoned. If the audience thought that his earlier apoplexy was an award-winning performance, the death scene rated an Oscar! Aladdin and his princess live happily ever after in their restored Palace.
Without exception the cast of Arabian Nights was excellent and it is worth emphasising that many of them were playing two or even three different roles. It may seem invidious to single out individuals but Paul and Madeleine deserve special mention on what may well be their final MAD Panto appearances. On a happier note Jon Cox was making his MAD debut and one could not have WISHED for a more polished performance! Jon’s son, Thomas, also making his MAD debut played the thief Yousef to great effect.
The ingenuity of the backstage crew also deserves our praise. Given that there was such a large cast and so many costume changes the Stage Manager (Pat Woodison) did an excellent job. At the other extreme, Janet Haley, as prompt, had the least to do – though the ad-libbing may have left her frantically turning the pages trying to find her place!
The sets (Carolyn & Robin Licence, Ron Friend, Robert Gunn, Jean & Brian Baker); props (Jean & Brian Baker and Margaret Benskin); costumes (Carolyn Licence); lights (Robin Licence); sound (Olly Loosemore & Chris Parker) and special effects were first class, creating a magical Arabian atmosphere. The Box Office was well organised by Brenda Payne and, in spite of the snow and ice, there were good numbers at each performance. Congratulations to Nic Parker (Director) and Kathy Phillips (Co-Director) for an excellent production and to ALL those involved in Arabian Nights.
Ruth & Declan
Arabian Nights.....succeeded through its simplicity - Ernie
Arabian Nights - O what a night! Having been plagued by bad weather it was touch and go as to whether we would be able to attend MAD's recent production "Arabian Nights". However, aren't we pleased we made the effort. MAD provided an evening of fun and laughter. Not only did they put on one pantomime, but four. The evening was a real tonic and just what was needed to lift the spirits. My favourite was The Court Jester. The absurdity of the plot was so funny and I couldn't stop laughing. Keep up the good work. Here's to MAD's next production in June of 'Relative Values'. Angela
Arabian Nights - There was enough ‘ham’ on stage to fill enough sandwiches for the entire cast and audience too! And the exotic dancers! Such beautiful nautch girls and houris - Cor!! Good job my pacemaker was working well!!
After being a naïve Fisherman, then a beastly Abanazer and lastly a Hanging Judge, Paul’s Sunday sermons will never be quite the same again.
No depression here! But the crunch felt never the less - Ali Baba could only raise 10% of his quota of thieves?
An imaginative and original production of four well-known tales. A jolly good romp! John
Arabian Nights - Four enchanting stories that were performed in MAD's usual fun style, thank you! Particularly enjoyed watching the 40 thieves in their jars peeping at the audience and the amusing story of the Court Jester. Jenny
Arabian Nights - Was it worth trudging through the snow and ice on Thursday evening to see MAD’s production of Arabian Nights? Yes, definitely! It was a very imaginative production with lots of fun. The cast was very versatile playing different roles in the four plays. I can’t help mentioning a certain Genie, who made me laugh every time he waddled on. Congratulations to the producer, the costumer lady and all who were involved in making this a very enjoyable evening. Pamela