London Bubble is currently presenting a season of promenade theatre in the park, a part of its output which it has sadly not done in the last seven years due to funding. Promenade necessarily depends on a dry evening, and sadly our first planned visit was cancelled due to rain. However we were very lucky to enjoy a beautiful pink-tinged August evening a week or so ago, when we got to watch Tales from the Arabian Nights at Southwark Park.
Photos by me – click to enlarge
The meeting point is at the bandstand which was decorated beautifully but simply with white lights. We collected a chair or a blanket to sit on which we had to take around with us. Different stories happen at different locations throughout the park, which you are led to by the actors as well as the stewards. Seven actors play the parts of multiple characters who tell symbolic tales about kings and peasants, princesses and fishermen, and using only a few minimal props which have to be carried around with them too. The fantasy world which they create has everyone charmed.
Some of the tales are familiar, particular the one of Shaharazade whose tales have to be addictive enough to her evil husband, the King, that he will save her life to hear the ending. Others are new to us, some were adult and went over the heads of my kids, but they still enjoyed them all, and especially the thrill of being allowed in the park after dusk. My stand out actor was Russeni Fisher, who has you hooked from his introduction, and every one of his characters has comedy, passion and empathy (I especially enjoyed him as one of the sisters, with a flower in his hair). The funniest story was the one about the he-goat and the jousting stranger, both of which are played by Nicholas Goode with a charming glee.
My one criticism is the length of the show. Fewer stories would have been just as entertaining, but they might have kept the attention of some of the younger children. It is pretty much dark by the end of the promenade and a couple of extra lights might have improved the walk to the location of the final story. At 10 and 12, my children coped fine with this, but it could have been trickier for much younger ones.
London Bubble has finished its shows at Southwark Park for this year, but the performances carry on at Greenwich Park this week until 19th August. I have seen some photographs and the park setting there looks wonderful, looking out from the top of the park onto the skyline of the city and the river Thames. Please do check out the website for tickets for this recommended evening of storytelling which has some quite magical moments.
hattydaze rating: ***/*****
We attended Tales from the Arabian Nights courtesy of press tickets. It plays until 19th August 2017. See the London Bubble website for booking details.