dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
New play explores friendship and belonging
With lockdown still continuing, theatres are now embracing online and creating works for audiences at home - and Jabala and the Jinn is a good example of how effective this means of engagement can be. Performed on stage with full set, lighting and costumes, it is as close to being in a theatre as can be achieved through our small screens.
The story is a simple one – seven-year-old Jabala is having problems fitting in at school, is missing her mum who died a few months ago and is struggling with how to support her bereaved dad. One morning, a voice speaks to her in Arabic and so begins a journey into some special friendships as the voice belongs to Sarah, a young Jinn who wants to become human.
Jabala enlists the help of new boy at her school, Munir, an Arabic-speaking refugee from Yemen, and together they befriend Sarah. But of course, the path of true friendship never runs smoothly – particularly when one of the youngsters is a Jinn.
Written by Asif Khan and directed by Rosamande Hutt, there is lots of humour in Jabala and the Jinn as the trio discover the highs and lows of these new alliances. But wrapped up in the fun are lots of messages around acceptance, love, friendship and difference.
Natalie Davies is an ebullient Jabala who balances enthusiasm at her new comrades with sorrow for her dead mother and the sadness this brings her father. She's very much an 'every girl' who young audiences will quickly identify with – from her unwillingness to get up in the morning to a delightful scene in which she makes a special breakfast for her dad including jelly babies, crisps and peanut butter sandwiches.
Jay Varsani takes on the roles of both Dad and Munir, which does involve a bit of running on and off stage at times, but he manages to keep the two roles distinct. Safiyya Ingar's Sarah is excited and full of energy as she leaps around the stage, keen as a new puppy to be liked by the children.
Aimed at children aged five to eight, Jabala and the Jinn runs to 45 minutes and is available to stream until April 24. Produced by AIK Productions, Belgrade Theatre and Turtle Key Arts, it is evidence theatre can survive and even thrive in lockdown.