The Adventures of Sinbad

Date 12th January 2024
Society Sinodun Players
Venue The Corn Exchange, Wallingford
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Caroline Malnick and Julie Utley
Musical Director Rob Alderton
Choreographer Stuart Herniman
Producer Nick Morley
Written By Marilyn Johnstone

Report

Author: Andrew Walter

One thing that this current production of “The Adventures of Sinbad” has in common with the versions staged in 1984 and 2002 is that the script was written by the same member of the company.  This year’s version featured most of the familiar pantomime staples – a dame, a principal boy, a comedy duo and so forth – and was generously sprinkled with terrible jokes, slapstick and family-friendly humour.  It largely avoided contemporary references, and in particular was respectful of the current situation in the Middle East; however, an exception was made of ex-Prime Minister (and local resident) Boris Johnson, with all the old chestnuts about “work gatherings” getting another airing.  I can only imagine what he would have made of being portrayed as an incontinent camel.  His fellow camel, Priti, was let off lightly!

“The Adventures of Sinbad” is necessarily episodic in nature, which means that it lacks the strong narrative thread of some of the better-known fairy tales such as “Cinderella” or “Jack and the Beanstalk”.  On the other hand, it allows for a varied and exotic range of locations, and these – from The Caliph’s Palace to the “Flying Fish” – were beautifully and imaginatively realised.  The use of blocks of colour in the set design, and the carefully chosen colour palette for the costumes, ensured that the whole production was a feast for the eyes.

It was also a feast for the ears.  The musical director evidently chose the featured songs very carefully and made excellent use of underscore to enhance mood and characterisation.  There was an appropriately generous quota of nautical songs, and the production benefited from having some good singers in the company, and a first class band.

The talented line-up of principals was ably supported by the dancers and chorus, who added colour and context to many of the scenes, and who kept their heads up to engage the audience at all times.  The choreography was tidy and appropriately inclusive, and some of the principals had eye-catching routines.  The children made some effective contributions, notably as the spirits in the Diamond Cave, when their movements were literally illuminated by the LEDs in their costumes.

Just to glance through the production credits is humbling.  It takes dozens, perhaps even hundreds of people to bring a show like this to the stage, and the Players have done a wonderful job in marshalling the talent at their disposal to present such an entertaining and enjoyable pantomime.  It’s a fantastic community event, and it upholds a proud tradition; I was delighted to learn that the show was 90% sold before it even opened, and playing to packed houses is no more than everyone involved with this impressive production deserves.