Adura Onashile and Itaxso Moreno in The Arabian Nights Photo: tristram kenton
Published: 13 December, 2012
by HOWARD LOXTON
YOU can’t compress the many tales of The Thousand and One Nights into a single evening. Mary Zimmerman’s adaptation limits itself to a handful of the less-familiar stories. She frames them with those of Shahryar and Scheherezade.
Shahryar is a Persian king who, in revenge for his wife’s adultery, takes a new bride each day and executes her next morning, Scheherazade is his vizier’s daughter who ends this and wins his love by enthralling nightly storytelling.
As one story segues into another the mood changes from comedy to an exposition of Islamic values and explores a range of human foibles, sometimes coarse and bawdy, sometimes serious, always making some point about human behaviour.
It is played on a simple green disk backed by a black brick wall through which a jagged aperture is broken. Above hang a myriad of starry lights that dazzle into brightness at significant moments and Ben Stone’s design is rich with colourful costumes bathed in Richard Howell’s golden light. Music and dance from Iranian pop band Take It Easy Hospital and choreographer Anne Yee help keep Lu Kemp’s production lively.
With even Adura Onashile (Scheherazade) and Sandy Grierson (Shahryar) doubling roles this is very much the work of an ensemble. The plethora of accents from a multi-national cast sometimes makes dialogue hard to follow but when it culminates in a Babel-like crescendo of storytelling it makes powerful theatre.
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