Cool genie heats up French Aladin

16th April 2004 at 01:00
ALADIN ET LA LAMPE ENCHANTEE. Theatre Sans Frontieres, Review rating: 25

The boredom threshold of the average eight-year-old is notoriously low.

Reared on three-minute pop videos and vote-'em-off game shows, they demand maximum entertainment for minimum effort. So expecting an eight-year-old to sit through one-and-a-half hours of theatre, delivered entirely in an unfamiliar language, was always going to be ambitious.

Nonetheless, Theatre Sans Frontieres, a Northumberland-based company, is currently touring with a production of Aladin et la Lampe Enchantee, a French-language version of the Arabian Nights story, aimed at primary pupils. The company chooses the obvious solution, opting to deliver much of the production through farce. Large gestures and frantic arm-waving keep the children amused. Meanwhile, dashes of more sophisticated humour - "je viens du pays de Babaganouche" - raise ripples from the adults.

Throughout, the performance is only one step up from pantomime. It is also resolutely low-budget, with shadow-puppet and projection effects harking back to children's theatre of a generation ago. Often, these effects are less than successful: a projected image of the genie of the ring bears a disturbing resemblance to Rosemary Conley in tights and satin.

But occasionally they work well. The highlight is the genie, a suave apparition in dinner-jacket, arriving in a puff of dry-ice smoke. All attitude and style, he struts across the stage to the accompaniment of low jazz, "cool comme la glace, cool comme la neige".

But what raises the play above the charmingly amateur is its careful and measured use of language. There is constant reference to the vocabulary of early French lessons. As the five cast members wander through the audience at the start of the play, they approach the children with queries of "comment t'appele-tu?" and "ca va?"

Isobel Walters, eight, said: "I speak a little French. I can say "bonjour" and "au revoir". And I've seen the Tour de France. But the play would be easier to understand if it was in English. I had to ask my dad what it meant."

Aladin et la Lampe Enchantee is touring until the end of May.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today