Operation Magic Carpet: An action-packed adventure from London to Baghdad
LONDON - In Operation Magic Carpet, a new play written by Samantha Ellis and currently shown at the Polka Theatre in London, Nomi seeks to find the heart her mother left in Baghdad. A young girl living a “boring” life in London wonders about Iraq, the country her parents come from. She creates an imaginary world of magical flying carpets and shooting stars, a fantasy that comes to life on stage for children to see.
One night, Nomi and her family are eating dinner discussing life in Iraq. She wishes to eat watermelons and sleep on a roof under the stars. Her father tells her how lucky she is to live in London where it is safe and full of opportunities.
Her blind uncle, on the other hand, seems to struggle to adapt to London. He mocks fish fingers and wonders why they are called fish fingers when fish don’t have fingers and reasserts the importance of knowing your identity. He takes great pride in Iraq, claiming that Shakespeare is Iraqi calling him “Sheikh of Zubair”.
Her father tells his brother off for telling Nomi this lie and relays how important it is to adapt to British culture. Her mother is loving, constantly calling Nomi “Gulbi“, which means “heart” in Arabic.
A genie appears out of a mango pickle jar offering Nomi three wishes. Her adventure begins. She travels to Baghdad on a magic carpet and meets characters from the Arabian Nights such as Sinbad the Sailor.
Sinbad appears as a sly merchant who agrees to help Nomi find her mother’s heart. Nomi realises he means it in the literal sense — the actual heart of her mother he cuts from her chest.
Nomi uses her final wish to save her mother, realising how much her family means to her.
As Nomi’s three wishes are used up swimming the Tigris, she worries how to return home. She fights animals and the corrupted Sinbad trying to become the caliph. She restores order into the region.
A well-paced play full of humour and colour, it keeps children glued to their seats. The play is thought-provoking dealing with issues such as longing for identity and the confusion of finding a balance of adapting eastern upbringing to Western lifestyle.
Five actors give a great performance that is well-researched. Common Iraqi sayings are used such as “Son of a dog”, which is a common curse, and “Your health”, which is said after someone sneezes.
The actors create a lively atmosphere through music using the Arabic drum as the mother belly dances.
They even create personal engagement with the audience by sitting next to them and speaking to them in the interval, while in character.
The play makes for a great night for the family that can be enjoyed by both adults and children. The audience leaves the theatre with a lesson learned — “You must know where you come from to know where you are going.”
Operation Magic Carpet will be performed at the Polka Theatre in London through May 24th.