Theatre Review: Sinbad The Sailor – Entertainment On Sail, Or Whirl Around A Pearl

December 11, 2022

 

By BRUCE DENNILL

 

Sinbad The Sailor / Directed by Steven Stead / Teatro, Montecasino, Fourways

 

With traditional versions of any kind of art often being challenged by new or updated options as part of bids to attract or evolve new audiences (Bored Ape NFTs, anyone?), it’s kind of comforting to see artists investing in something more – supposedly – old-fashioned. This is particularly the case when the track record of the company (Durban’s highly-rated Kickstart Productions) and the cast (Samantha Peo, Schoeman Smit, Murray Todd, Kiruna-Lind Devar, Yamikani Mahaka-Phiri and Sandi Dlangalala, among others) is as good as it is here.

Greg King’s set is another important character, comprising eye-searingly bright floor-to-flies paintings that are cheerful and dynamic and which powerfully support the storytelling. Said story involves the evil intent of Morgiana the Magnificent (Peo), who wants to claim a legendary, magical black pearl she imagines will make her the most powerful sorcerer in the world. The pearl is on a distant island, though, so she needs to rely on the skills of a crew of sailors including Sinbad (Micah Stojakovic), currently cooling his heels after the fabulous capers that made his reputation, and Long John Slither (Todd), a world-weary pirate captain. Entirely unsurprisingly, there are a number of other representative characters along for the ride and to joyfully and needlessly complicate the narrative – a dame (Smit), a couple of jesters or fools (Dlangalala and Mthokozisi Zulu), a princess/heroine (Devar), a wise woman/mentor (Lelo Ramasimong) and a genie (Mahaka-Phiri).

Peo, whose own maniacal laugh is purpose-built for a villain, sneers and purrs her way through her character’s antihero antics, and Devar and Mahaka-Phiri add a great deal of charisma and charm to their roles. Smit’s English accent and strong physical comedy skills make his unsubtle Dame Donna Kebab consistently comical and Dlangalala’s loose-limbed but carefully controlled goofiness means his rather dim Silly Billy Souvlaki becomes an audience favourite. Standout performances come from Ramasimong – she’s a particularly commanding singer – and Todd, who matches an hilarious hangdog expression with fantastic comic timing to inspire regular snorts and guffaws.

One of the highlights of the whole show is one of its most time-honoured elements, when a number of the characters line up in front of the curtain and sing the “If I were not upon the stage…” song in a round, complete with over-the-top actions choreographed to intrude into the space of the actors alongside and so create the possibility of something going horribly (or uproariously) wrong. It doesn’t, in this instance, and the combination of daft lyrics, dafter actions and the occasional bit of improv make for a sustained belly-laugh across the theatre.

Sinbad is wholesome fun with just the occasional adult-friendly aside, plot holes you could sail a ship through and enough verve and exuberance to tie everything together in a gratifying way.

 

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