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Muddy review: Arabian Nights at Painshill, Cobham

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The nine-year-old Mudlet and I are not long back from seeing Arabian Nights in the gorgeous setting of Painshill in Cobham. And I’ve got to tell you, it’s very clever drama by the folk at the Story Pocket Theatre. But it ends tomorrow (Thursday) – so BE QUICK!

There are just three actors, who each play many different roles as the stories and stories-within-stories unfold. We start with The Storyteller, played today by Chris Gunter, who sets us off with the tale of Sheherazade (Adeline Waby), the legendary queen and storyteller of One Thousand and One Nights. She’s trying to win over her new husband, the king (William Forde), who was jilted by his first wife and vowed to marry a new wife every day, beheading the one from the previous day.

An energetic mix of clowning, physical theatre, puppetry and music follows as we meet Ali Baba and his 40 thieves, Aladdin, the Little Beggar, and the Fisherman and the Genie. It’s fun, fast and really quite funny – for both the kids and the adults.

The actors move through the characters with ease, changing accents, mannerisms and headwear as they go. It’s easy to follow and incredibly engaging. And at just an hour long, it’s the perfect duration for smaller children.

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The show is recommended for children of five and above, which is probably just about right. My mudlet is nine, and she loved it, but I think it would have been a bit young for my 12-year-old mudlet.

Staging this production in the conservatory at Painshill was a masterstroke. The ceiling is already lit up with hundreds of fairy lights, and it combined perfectly with the simple and clever set design of a plain white onion dome, which separates into three pieces to create a palace, or a cave, or a boat. The music, too, cleverly help us keep up with the plot and multiple stories.

Story Pocket Theatre was set up a couple of years ago with the aim of producing beautiful and magical theatre for families, and to keep alive those classic tales. With Arabian Nights, I would say it is certainly mission accomplished.

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The company is staging two of its shows at Painshill – Arabian Nights and A Pocketful of Grimms – but you’ll have to be quick to seem them – tomorrow (Wednesday) is the last day. If the weather holds out, you could combine the theatre with a walk around the beautiful gardens, and if it sodden like today, you’re onto a winner anyway, because you’ll have entertained the bratlets.

Arabian Nights is on at 11.30am, and A Pocketful of Grimms is at 2.30pm. Tickets are £12 each which includes entry into the garden. You can see both shows of £20.

Painshill, Portsmouth Road, Cobham KT11 1JE. Tel: 01932 868113.

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