FANTASIA Premiered Old Queen's Theatre, October 2005 Performed for Platform Arts Festival, August 2006 Production Credits
"The whole concept just left me cold" Alan Scott, The Press
A band of turbaned horsemen in flying robes charges across a desert plain as a challenge to the spectators. This is Fantasia. Not the Disney musical, but an Arab performance of equestrian feats. This is also Free Theatre's latest production, an environmental, multi-media performance that confronts spectators with Western fantasies of Arabia: an Oriental bazaar, horses in the desert, whirling dervishes, a harem, belly-dancers, and caves with hidden treasures.
Fantasia takes inspiration from tales of the Arabian Nights, Ali Baba and Aladdin, from Mozart's opera The Abduction from the Seraglio, and from films like The Sheik, Thief of Baghdad, Lawrence of Arabia, The Sheltering Sky and The English Patient. Arabian fantasies have taken on new virulence in our minds through recent political events. When we think of caves where an evil captain lurks to send out his minions to harm us, we may think of Ali Baba as well as Osama bin Laden, and the image of veiled women in harems subjected to the power of the sheik evokes similar mixtures of fear and fascination.
Conceived in early 2005, Fantasia has evolved through several phases. The project began with a series of workshops in which the actors took each other through exercises, improvisations and experiences that played out and played upon their fantasies of Arabia. From these sessions there emerged physical representations such as the horse herd and travelling pilgrimage of the desert and the belly dance of the harem. Falkenberg has woven these ideas together to create a series of vivid environments that the audience move in and around.
The new version of Fantasia will be performed as part of the inaugural University of Canterbury College of Arts Festival. Currently, the director, actors and designer are reconfiguring the toy theatres: a series of miniature and transportable 'stages' upon which stories of the Orient are sold and Arabian 'heroes', old and new, have their stories told (Ali Baba, Aladdin, Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein). These theatrical stories are being considered in dialogue with film images to create a contemporary Arabian Nights Entertainment that explores the fantasies and nightmares that have occupied our collective subconscious since the crusades.
Directed by Peter Falkenberg and designed by Richard Till, a revised version of the performance that ran at the end of last year is planned for August 2006 in Old Queen's Theatre. If you would like to know more about Fantasia, Free Theatre or Te Puna Toi, please see Emma or George in the Te Puna Toi Office.