Review: Haroun and the Sea of Stories

The Shell Play

‘Haroun and the Sea of Stories’ by Salman Rushdie

The Shell brought to life the mysterious tale of Haroun in the Ellis Theatre in a physical and imaginative style.  Shadow puppets of weird and wonderful creatures circled the minimalist black box space which offset the bright and vivid costumes in this pageant of fantastical characters.

The play itself, a meditation on freedom of speech set amidst corrupt elections, sends us on a journey of discovery through the lands of Gup and Chupp, where the source of stories is in danger by the evil Kattam-shud.  The quest to save the sea of stories becomes a quest to save the imaginative freedom of everyone, most notably the inhabitants of Haroun’s morose home city, a city ‘so ruinously sad it had forgotten its name’.

The Shell, working as a tightly knit ensemble brought this complex story to life in a grand style creating lots of vivid stage imagery and a series of bright and colourful characters.  It would be wrong to make special mention of any individual performances as this was such a team effort from start to finish.  We were treated to many comedic turns from Sam Bucks’s (CO) vain General Kitab through to Tate Oliphant’s (MO) wonderfully sinister Snooty Buttoo.  Sam Holden’s (CO) wide eyed Haroun met Ijah Ofon’s (C1) charismatic Water Genies and were joined in battle by a wonderful ensemble of fish, a floating gardner and even a walrus.  Haroun’s guide on this journey was the enigmatic Hoopoe played bombastically by Meriel Nolan (MO).

Paul Cox’s stark set design and Josh Entecott’s colourful lighting perfectly juxtaposed the highly physical and bold performance style.  Dale Armitage and her team created vast numbers of imaginative costumes from the bright and lavishly feathered Hoopoe to the Pages that seemed to have walked straight out of Alice in Wonderland.  Congratulations to all involved in this innovative production that displayed a lot of promising talent for the future of Marlborough Drama.

David Kenworthy
Head of Drama

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