Hoxton Hall, London – until 13 October 2018
Reviewed by Lisa Harlow
This is an adaptation by Nessah Muthy of a selection of stories from the epic collection ‘Arabian Nights’. She describes their content as ‘beautiful and beastly stories, some with dark hearts and utterly compelling plot twists’. I couldn’t concoct a finer description.
These are stories woven around the wicked King Shahrayr’s (Pravessh Rana) trail of destruction, following the shattering of his heart on discovering his wife’s infidelity. After disposing of her and her lover, he commences a dark daily ritual of marrying virgin brides before slaughtering them after the wedding night, in order to drown out the sirens in his own mind. As the pool of virgin brides disappears, he is left with only the two slaves in his Palace, and daughters of the Chief Court Official (Hemi Yeroham). Step forward Sharazad (Sharon Singh), driven by delivering a heartfelt promise made to protect her sister and by her very own virtue. This storyteller can see beyond the veil of the King’s brutality to the wounded creature within, and weaves her web of tales in the King’s lair with the aim of releasing him from his own chains and freeing her sister Dunzayad (Izzy jones), who would be next in line to marry the King.
This tapestry of tales is delivered by six actors demonstrating great versatility to cover a range of roles, alongside convincing puppetry and song which transform this charming Victorian music hall into the platform for these magical and mystical tales.
The dialogue is delivered powerfully leaving the audience in a dense fog of enrapture. The writer’s aim to present stories from across generations and time, and of women of colour being masters of their circumstances is certainly achieved. There is humour throughout, truly appreciated (with some Monty Python-esque moments), and entertaining audience participation. The enormous ghoulish puppets are captivating and the storytelling holds attention throughout the performance.
The setting is beautifully presented and the combination of souk aromas, exotic linens, and Arabian inspired music is quite intoxicating.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable evening of immersion in far off dark yet enticing lands.