Jabala and The Jinn
Belgrade Theatre Coventry
(online from 31 March 2021)
This world premiere of Jabala and the Jinn is a physical and family-friendly performance based around some supernatural happenings in a home in Bradford.
Jabala Khan (Natalie Davies) is a precocious and lively six-year-old whose mother has recently died. Father (Jay Varsani) copes as best he can by keeping the day-to-day rituals (beautifully portrayed by dance steps) of getting breakfast, school and work as neat as possible.
At school, Jabala meets Munir ‘Refugee Boy’ (Jay Varsani) obsessed by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Jabala is initially ashamed of him in front of her school friend Amy. But Munir’s background in Yemen and his journey to Bradford as well as his intellect and habitual mispronunciation of Shakespeare’s name make him a likeable and engaging friend. Jabala in her turn promises to teach him 5,000 words in English.
Jabala shares with Munir that every morning as she leaves the house, as her mother always did, she says ‘Salaam Alaikum’, Arabic for ‘Peace be with you’. One morning she is shocked – as are we - to hear a disembodied voice respond.
It is Sarah (Safiyya Ingar), the Jinn; a lively, talkative, comedic, 700 year old ghost yearning to become human. There is more to Sarah than meets the eye. She is definitely not, for example, anything like the helpful genie that British pantomime portrays.
Eid is coming up for the Khan household and Munir helps Jabala prepare a meal and performance of Romeo and Juliet for Jabala’s father. He is upset because a gold and diamond bracelet has disappeared; who has it? Sarah must collect some very human bits and pieces in order to become human and the bracelet is just the start.
I enjoyed the clever use of music (James Hesford) with some distinctly recognisable classics from Tchaikovsky, Greig, Mozart, plus rap, with also a generous amount of dance to aid story-telling.
This is an engaging story from Turtle Key Arts and AIK Productions written and co-produced by Asif Khan with 5-8 years in mind, and with potential to drill down into a huge variety of influences and sub-plots. Online is not the easiest forum and I hope that this production, directed by Rosamunde Hutt, will be given full glory on a proper stage soon – it definitely deserves it.