Thursday, August 25, 2011

One Thousand and One Nights ~ in Edinburgh

Back in June, The View from Fez reported on the problems being encountered by the Tim Supple production of One Thousand and One Nights. The dramatisation from original Arabic texts, translated by Hannan al-Shaykh, is intended to present the ancient stories in authentic form. We had a keen interest in the play as the rehearsals were held in our city of Fez and it was heading to the Edinburgh Festival where much was expected of it. Sadly, the reception has been lukewarm.

On its first outing in Canada, the six hour performance in two three-hour episodes, failed to ignite the critics. At the time the Variety reviewer, Richard Ouzounian, described it as a... "deeply flawed but potentially powerful piece of work which needs some major editing and re-focusing to achieve the success that was hoped for it." There was obviously need for some drastic editing. However, on the way to the Edinburgh Festival the production ran into more problems when visas to enter the United States were refused for some cast members.

Now it has opened in Edinburgh at the Royal Lyceum and while some individual performances and haunting music were noted, the overall response has been less than enthusiastic.

Assaad Bouab as King Sharayar -"brutally convincing"
 Libby Purves, writing in The Times last Tuesday (August 23), says..."I doubt that the storylines, ancient as they are, will enhance any Westerner’s idea of Arab attitudes to women. Nor does One Thousand and One Nights - two lumbering three-hour episodes - suggest that Supple’s attitude to audiences is any more considerate.

"A lot of djinn but not quite enough tonic" - The Times

"It is energetically staged, physically expressive and musically exciting, sometimes bawdily amusing. Houda Echouafni is touching as Shahrazad, and Assaad Bouab convincingly brutal as the King and measured as the Caliph Haroun al Rashid.

"But it asks far more, in time and patience, than it gives. The whole is played in Arabic, English and French, sometimes randomly in the same sentence, all rendered into English in high surtitles which don’t always keep up and fatally distract you from the stage. But those hesitating over which half to book for should know that Part 2 is shorter, has better jokes, more heart, only one major flogging and one eye being sliced out. And for once a woman (the Demon’s Wife, Ava Farhang, very foxy) gets a chance to rape unwilling men."

"But for all the effort and fascination and cross-cultural partnership, it is hard to take away more than a shudder and the memory of some haunting music." - Libby Purves, The Times


Anonymous said...

We went to see this last night, and are going to see part two today. I have to say, the critics have got it wrong on this one. The show is amazing!

Sandy McCutcheon said...

That's good to hear!