Storytelling at its best

Digital Reporter Kristy Stott reviews our current production of Arabian Nights

On taking my seat, I felt immersed in the action already, as if I had just turned down a side street and stumbled upon a old Arabian market square. Set in the round, with a brightly tiled floor, a merchants cart and a wafting of spices, it all conjured up ideas of an intriguing and seductive world. The sort of world, where if you rubbed an dusty oil lamp maybe, just maybe, a genie might pop out!

The compelling and enchanting tales of Arabian Nights are held together by the frame story of King Shahrayar who has been driven mad by his first wife’s betrayal. He looks to seek his revenge on all women, until he marries the charming and resourceful Shahrazad. On marrying the King, Shahrazad believes that if she can tell him a fantastic story every night that he may learn the error of his ways and lift the terrible curse which grips his kingdom.

During this vibrant and magical ensemble production I felt as though I was witnessing storytelling at its best. With each of the actors nurturing the narrative – pushing the action forward and playing multiple roles. I really liked this sense of sharing the stories as it evoked ideas of a busy and bustling souk in ancient Persia and reminded me that tales such as these would have been passed on by word of mouth many years ago.

Rokhsaneh Ghawam-Shahidi plays Shahrazad and leads an outstanding cast of nine who all give strong physical performances, playing over 100 different characters between them and incorporating seamless costume and prop changes. And Tachia Newall gives a jaw-achingly brilliant comedic performance in the tale of ‘The Little Beggar’.

It was noticeable that all of the younger members of the audience really enjoyed the performance and judging by their laughter and responses throughout, it would be pretty safe to say that they were entertained from beginning to end. I actually heard a group of school children gasp in astonishment during the tale of ‘Es-Sindibad’ when the cast came together with some very well crafted props to create a large mystical bird in flight.

Nearing the close of the play the pages of Shahrazad’s story book floated down to the stage as the cast dance wildly together to celebrate. Perhaps we may understand that these tales were not written to be read or be published in a dusty old book – but to be celebrated, acted out and appreciated by an audience. With Dominic’s Cooke’s modern stage adaptation of these old folk stories and director Amy Leach’s dynamic and physical vision, this certainly enables these tales to be told powerfully and appreciated by all ages.

Arabian Nights runs from Fri 30 Nov 2012 – Sat 12 Jan 2013. Tickets are available here or from The Lowry Box Office on 0843 208 6010.