27 March 2021

Jabala and the Jinn Review.

Belgrade Theatre Coventry, in association with AIK Productions and Turtle Key Arts, brings their latest show, Jabala and the Jinn, to the stage for a virtual audience.


Asif Khan's new play takes us to Bradford and the home of Jabala and her father. It's been a few months since Jabala's mother died and her dad is constantly battling to get her to school on time. One day Jabala hears a mysterious voice speaking to her in Arabic. Is it her mum or has she imagined it?


With the of a school friend Munir, who happens to be a Shakespeare enthusiast, Jabala summons a Jinn called Sarah using a chant and some garlic. This sparks a brilliant friendship between the three but is restricted by Sarah's limited time before she's summoned back. 


The friendships blossom until Jabala's mum's gold bracelet turns out to be missing. A little predictably it's Sarah that has taken the bracelet. This causes conflict between the characters and Sarah needs the bracelet and 6 other items to become human and the sadness that Jabala's father feels at the loss of his wife's bracelet. 


It's a well-written story by Khan, he has written 4 believable, interesting and likeable characters as well as an imaginative story. With a run time of an hour, the language and pace will keep children's attention as well as there being plenty for adults to enjoy. Schools should certainly be showing it to their pupils.


The artwork for Jabala and the Jinn. Illustration by Nadine Kaadan.



The 3 performers are brilliant. Natalie Davies is perfectly cast as Jabala, she plays her with great skill and aplomb - if you were a child you'd want to be Jabala's friend. Jay Varsani plays both the emotion of Jabala's father and the youthfulness of Shakespeare obsessed Munir really well. Safiyya Ingar brings boundless energy to Sarah (the Jinn). She's joyous to watch. Undoubtedly the play's best moments are the scenes that involve Sarah.


Rosamunde Hutt's direction is slick and works well for the camera. There's only one moment where Jabala speaks directly to the audience as she asks whether she should bring Sarah back after the fallout. There's clearly been great work on the physicality of the characters too, all of whom are really believable. Mila Sanders's simple but effective set design, Aideen Malone's lighting and James Hesford's soundtrack enhance the setting and visuals of the production.


I watched this production live-streamed on World Theatre Day 2021 and what a beautiful reminder of the power of live performance, even if it's watching from home. How great storytelling and engaging performances can breathe life into stories and tales and have audiences gripped. This production had me hooked from the get-go. I loved it.


Rating - ⭐⭐⭐⭐ - a hugely likeable and engaging play that will delight both children and adults. A great family watch.


Jabala and the Jinn will be streamed from Belgrade Theatre's website from Wednesday 31st March until Saturday 24th April. Tickets can be purchased from https://www.belgrade.co.uk/events/jabala-and-the-jinn/ and allow a 24-hour viewing window. 

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