Operation Magic Carpet

Review written by Flossie Waite
A Polka Theatre Production
Polka Theatre
For ages 6 – 11
3rd April – 24th May

Nomi was born in Britain but her family is from Iraq; lives in London but dreams of Baghdad. Longing for the adventures that are impossible in England (“moderate people, moderate weather, moderate life”) but surely waiting in Iraq, and keen to help her homesick mum, Nomi jumps at the chance to fly off on a magic carpet when a genie pops out of a mango pickle jar one evening.

Nomi is caught between her Uncle, who tells her endless exciting tales of Iraq (“She should know who she is”), and her Dad, who is determined to adopt Western ways (“she is English now”). The show undertakes to explore her cultural heritage and her family’s conflicting response to being uprooted, but this aspect of the production is under-realised. The opening – a family fight over fishfingers – rushes through complex emotions so feels melodramatic, and rather at odds with the rest of the play: a spirited adventure through a Middle East only known in ancient fairytales.

Whilst overtly bringing together characters from the Arabian Nights, there are also undertones of Peter Pan: a father who believes stories are poppycock and doubles as the play’s villain, a family frantically awaiting news of a girl flown to a faraway land by a magical creature. Nomi’s use of words like “horrid” and her sincerity mark her closer to a Victorian dream of children, and when the audience are told by the evil Caliph that no one will ever smile in Baghdad again, they laugh in his face with purpose, a scene reminiscent of clapping to save Tinkerbell. Whilst definitely funny – the versatile Gehane Strehler steals the show – and unarguably charming, Operation Magic Carpet doesn’t break the mould.

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