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One Thousand and One Nights - EIF 2011

Royal Lyceum Theatre
4 stars
Sex and violence charge Tim Supple's epic, just shy of six-hour
production of some of the greatest stories ever told, as he magics
sixteen of Shahrazad's life-saving yarns into a majestic feast of
erotically-charged life that is both profound and entertaining. Things
start simply enough on a carpet-covered stage, but within five minutes
there's an athletic orgy on the go that's just one of a series of
visually stunning set-pieces involving a gorgeous, primarily young cast
of nineteen powered by the hypnotic swirl of a five-piece band.

Shahrazad's deflowering by slighted, woman-hating king, Shahrayer is
brutal and loveless in Hanan-al-Shaykh's poetic, feminist-centred
script. Performed in Arabic, English and French, each story melds into
the next with a magnificently subtle sense of fluidity that punctuates
the eternal interconnectedness of things as an array of powerful women
and desperate men offload their defining moments. There's some
knockabout fun too at the end of the first part between a Muslim, a
Christian and a Jew, by which time things are beginning to look
thoroughly modern. By the second part, there's something unspoken
between Shahrazad and Shahrayer, even if men are declared a deadly
disease.

Produced by Supple's Dash Arts company and commissioned by the
Toronto-based Luminato festival, this is a vivid rendering, which, by
drawing its cast from all the Arab countries, makes a statement about
art's ability to bridge long-festering conflicts. Almost, because these
are gloriously realised tales of love, lust, temptation, faithlessness,
jealousy, emasculation and emancipation and how every misguided action
has some self-destructive consequence. Most of all, this is about men,
women, and the endless tug of love and war between them called desire.

The Herald, August 22nd 2011

ends

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