Indefinite Articles, The Magic Lamp

Review in Issue 19-2 | Summer 2007

The small theatre is bathed in warm lights, the banks of seats placed so they face each other, and in the middle of the space are swathes of material hung to resemble the inside of a tent. Puppeteer Steve Tiplady advances to the centre and gives a short history of shadow plays, whose origins lie in storytelling in fire-lit caves. At first you think all this a bit worthy, a bit Theatre-In-Education, but actually it sets the tone perfectly for what is to follow – an Iraqi version of the Aladdin story, told using shadows cast by two overhead projectors onto a screen that bisects the room, and which can be raised and lowered as and when the story dictates. Indefinite Articles (Tiplady and performer/puppeteer Sally Brown) use simple materials to create unexpected images at the service of a familiar story. At one point there’s a three-way conversation between the hero, a princess and a rogue magician. An image of all three is projected into the air and a scrap of paper is moved around so it picks up the projected image: the princess talks so the paper is moved to catch her image; the hero talks and the paper is moved to catch him. There’s no hesitation in finding the image so the storytelling never misses a beat. The jewels in the cave are created by adding drops of coloured water into a tray of oil which is then projected onto the screen. The genie likewise is formed by drops of water in oil, agitated by hand when he needs to disappear. All the mechanics of the story are laid bare: there’s no hiding behind sleights of hand or theatre blackouts – and all this, for me, adds to the strength of the storytelling of this ingenious and, yes, magical show.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Dec 2006

This article in the magazine

Issue 19-2
p. 32