Arabian Nights is a new version of the world famous 1001 Nights written by Nessah Muthy. It is breathtakingly stunning. A magical night at the theatre which brings to life some of the greatest stories ever told: Sinbad the Sailor, Ali Baba and the 40 thieves and of course Aladdin. Thrillingly directed by Daniel Winder this Iris Theatre production is the best introduction to the Arabian Nights. The post 9/11 so-called clash of civilisations is all too possible. This production of these wonderful stories from the Golden Age of Islamic culture provides a very important counter-narrative to the clash of civilisations doom-mongers. Arabian Nights show what we have in common not what divides us.
The 1001 Nights are tales told at night. Hence the title. The Persian king Shahryar (whose ferocity is wonderfully realised by Pravessh Rana) sexually betrayed by his wife decides that all women are traitors who cannot be trusted. And so to avoid any danger of further betrayals he decides on a foolproof strategy. He marries a new woman every day, sleeps with her for one night and then has her beheaded in the morning. It makes Henry VIII’s six wives look like small beer by comparison. Very soon he runs out of women. He alights upon his servants two daughters Dunzayad and Sharazad. In a desperate last throw of the dice, Sharazad offers to tell the King a story every night if he will spare their lives. And so begin the stories of 1001 Nights.
Moving effortlessly back and forth between acting, narrating, dancing and puppetry – Jonny Dixon has done a wonderful job with the latter – the excellent six-strong cast bring to life story after story. The puppetry gives the show an extra dimension. For example, the King’s cruelty is made far scarier when he comes onto the stage as a ten-foot puppet with grotesque features and Edward Scissorhands like fingers. And when the puppets represent real characters but in miniature then the comedy is all the funnier. Watch out for the farting puppets scene. Hilariously funny. A bit like Thunderbirds crossed with Spitting Image. Its fantastically engaging and really works well.
Hemi Yeroham excels in the comic roles of Ali Baba, the Hunchback and Old Sinbad. Izzy Jones plays Dunzayad with both gusto and pathos. Maya Britto gives a fine comic performance as Ali Baba’s jealous Sister-in-Law and Ikky Elyas is a truly terrifying executioner. Pravessh Rana shows great versatility as he shifts from a stern king to comic apeman. The fart story is a gas. And Sharon Singh as Sharazad is superb. She understands the power of storytelling. She tells them with such intensity that they come alive both for the King and more importantly for us the audience. Through her exceptional storytelling, we witness the willing suspension of disbelief in action. A magical two hours which left me spellbound and wanting more.
Review by John O’Brien
From Sinbad to Ali Baba, join us on a voyage of discovery through the greatest stories ever told, as the historic Hoxton Hall is transformed into an opulent palace this autumn!
A young servant girl, Dunzayad is to marry the powerful king Shahryar. But this isn’t her husband-to-be’s first wedding – every single night he marries a new girl, and every single morning he has her killed.
As she steps up to take her marriage vows, her sister Sharazad can’t stand aside and watch; defiantly facing danger, she bravely sacrifices herself in place of her sibling. With the feast drawing to a close and the end in sight, Sharazad starts to tell stories. And with every fantastical tale she stretches out the thread of their lives a little further, slowly but surely melting her new husband’s stony heart.
Filled to the brim with music, puppetry and dance, Arabian Nights is the world premiere of a new play by Nessah Muthy, writer of The Host and Heorine. Based on the ancient library of texts, One Thousand and One Nights, it is a celebration of the artistic and cultural history of the ancient Middle Eastern world, with thousands of legends bounding across its pages.
Blending tales from ancient Arabic, Jewish, Greek, Indian, Persian and Turkish cultures together alongside a broad range of musical and puppeteering disciplines, this new production stretches across both borders and genre in an evening of storytelling that weaves a tapestry into the future.
Booking to 13th October 2018