Originally written for Theatre Bristol Writers.
The mythical story of Sinbad and his adventures on the high seas is one that sits in the collective consciousness of many across continents, shaped not just by folklore and childhood fairytales but also perhaps, a trilogy of somewhat sexist fantastical stop-motion 1970s action films that are often repeated on the telly. It’s fair to say that my curiosities were peaked and my expectations high for this years flagship festive Tobacco Factory Theatres offering which is produced in partnership with the renowned Travelling Light Theatre Company (whose previous Tobacco Factory productions include Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and the Olivier Award-nominated Cinderella: A Fairytale) and features a stellar ensemble cast including Lucy Tuck, The Boy Who Cried Wolf! (Bristol Old Vic), Cinderella: A Fairytale (TFTs) and Saiket Ahamed Cinderella: A Fairytale (TFTs), Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (TFTs).
Travelling Light’s production aims to to provide a different telling of Sinbad. We are presented with the chequered story of a character who is both a hero and a villain, simultaneously the luckiest and unluckiest sailor alive and just as importantly, a story of the ships seafaring crew led by the plucky ‘Little Fish’. We journey with them on seven voyages encountering the monstrous Old Man of the Sea, turbulent tides, sandy shores and hot air balloon rescues.
The tale is not short of the anticipated adventure, peril, salvation and marriage and the show provides plenty of laughter, music and song along the way. The minimal design of the production made me question how I formed my own preconceptions of the story (think slightly shabby yet preppy Oregon seaside village rather than an ancient and crustily barnacled underworld) with the initial opening hammock scene a joy to watch as the team of salty sea dogs each slowly emerge from the pupae-like white canvas ready to face their journey together with their tools to hand. The show’s highlights are often found through movement – with some memorable dance routines and clownish physical comedy as well as the occasional inclusion of the onstage musicians.
It’s theatre that certainly has magic although the current production on occasions (particularly in the first half) lacks atmosphere and in some moments is carried by an experienced and energetic ensemble cast rather than the writing or lyrics.
Overall though the production has much to offer and has repositioned my own thinking and assumptions around the story of Sinbad and how legends are created. It is a energising and entertaining show for all ages – an uplifting and revitalising production which will certainly put a bright smile on many faces across Bristol this Christmas.
The Last Voyage of Sinbad The Sailor until Sunday the 12th of January at Tobacco Factory Theatres Bristol.