Back in February 2010 we reported on the visit to Fez of theatre director Tim Supple. Tim is well known as the creator of an Indian version of A Midsummer Night's Dream a few years ago. He was in Fez to look for performers for his latest project - to create a new version of The Arabian Nights. It has just opened in Canada.
|Houda Echouafni, left, and Saad Al Ghefari|
Well, after weeks of rehersals at Palais Mokri in Fez, the now six hour long production has opened at the Luminato Festival in Toronto, who funded Supple's London-based Dash Arts project.
|Palais Mokri rehearsal space|
|Photo courtesy of Arts National Post.com|
There is an impressive theater piece inside "One Thousand anf One Nights" struggling to get free. One hopes time and work will release it." ~ Richard Ouzounian
After being forced to leave their original rehearsal venue in Alexandria, Egypt, due to the civil unrest there, the production relocated to Palais Mokri here in Fez, where everyone involved worked intensively for 10 weeks before moving to Toronto for final technical rehearsals.
|Supple and team members working in Fez|
At this point, it is safe to say that the final two hours could be excised without anything of real significance being lost.
Another problem comes in the way the tales are related. The actors speak a mix of English, French and Arabic, with surtitles filling in the gaps when necessary. But -- at least in the Toronto venue -- the surtitles aren't properly placed and are often out of sync. When the actors try to speak English, only a handful of them are able to communicate with the necessary clarity.
However, when "One Thousand and One Nights" works, it does so very well. The silken splendor of Zolaykha Sherzad's costumes, the rich texture of Sabri El Atrous' lighting and the sculptural quality of Supple's staging are often magical.
On the plus side is the fact that Tim's time in Fez created a huge amount of work for local people, including Culture Vulture maven, Jess Stephens (pictured above with set dressing carpets.)
You can read Variety's full review here.