The Arabian Nights – Lyceum

Three wishes, seven seas, forty thieves…and a story within a story within a story. This is the essence of the exotic Arabian Nights, the festive production showing at the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh.

The market square of old Baghdad is a place of wonders. In the midst of it, we meet Scheherezade, a girl who spends her days weaving stories from life around her. When the dour Sultan arrests her mother and half the market traders for ridiculous ‘offences’, it might just be Scheherezade’s imagination that saves the day – if only she can weave the Sultan into her web of stories.

There forms the framework for so many tales known, or half-known to all of us: Aladdin, Sinbad the Sailor, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves…And a magnificant cast of ten (it’s almost impossible to believe that so many distinct characters are played by so few actors) leads us on a fast-paced riot of music, dance, drama and fun – with a dash of pathos thrown in.

Pungently farting dog puppets, slapstick guards, and a huge joke about the sultan having a face like a bum were greeted as hilarious by the children (and a lot of the adults!) in the audience. Add in musical goats, a chess-playing monkey, the Sock Genie – oh, and don’t forget the tailor who makes clothes from dung, therefore making DUNGarees (boom boom!) – the Arabian Nights certainly has elements of posh pantomine.

However, it’s much more than that. The stories are cleverly choreographed, Francis O’Connor’s staging and scenery are richly geometric and lavishly coloured, the costumes are exotic in the extreme.  To single out any one of the case isn’t really fair, but Rehanna MacDonald’s feisty and smart Scheherezade plays perfectly alongside the forbidding, yet ultimately sad and lonely Sultan (Nick Karimi) and, of course, lessons are learned and all comes well in the end.

Recommended in the blurb for ages 5+, my seven year certainly enjoyed it as much as the self-confessed seventy year old stranger in the seat next to him. Definitely one suitable for all the family. the Arabian Nights is a festive extravaganza.

Adapted by Suhayla El-Bushra
Directed by Joe Douglas
Running until  7 January 2018


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