One of the world's great folk story-cycles adapted for the stage by leading theatre maker Tim Supple, from the stories written by the seminal Lebanese novelist Hanan al-Shaykh. This unique edition will unlock the ancient tales for a new generation of readers and performers.
Written by Arabic writers from tales gathered in India, Persia and across the great Arab Empire, the One Thousand and One Nights are the never-ending stories told by Shahrazad night after night, under sentence of death, to the king Shahrayar who has vowed to marry a virgin every night and kill her in the morning. Shahrazad prolongs her life by keeping the King engrossed in a web of stories that never ends - a fascinating kaleidoscope of life, love and destiny. The tales that unfold are erotic, violent, supernatural and endlessly surprising.
The web of tales woven by Shahrazad were exoticised and bowdlerised in the West under the title of the Arabian Nights. This adaptation unearths the true character of One Thousand and One Nights as it is in the oldest Arabic manuscripts. In turns erotic, brutal, witty, poetic and complex, the tales tell of love and marriage, power and punishment, rich and poor, and the endless trials and uncertainties of fate. The great cities and thriving trade routes of the Islamic world provide the setting for these stories that employ supernatural mystery and intense realism to portray the deep and endless drama of human experience.
For this retelling of the classic Arabic tales, Beirut-born al-Shaykh translated 19 of the originals and, beginning with its traditional frame story, embeds narrative within narrative to create a striking new version. To counter "the cunning and deceit of women," King Shahrayar beds a new wife each night only to have her killed in the morning. But his vizier's daughter, Shahrazad, vows to save the kingdom's girls by marrying the king and then telling him stories that so enthrall him that he can't kill her. From that opening, the stories build and fold in on themselves until we find ourselves back at the beginning. These stories pulse with sex, magic, and moral ambiguities; while terrible violence underscores moments of pure beauty. Guests are invited into a home only to encounter terrible cruelty; a woman becomes king so she can be a beacon for her lost love; a man plucks his eye for the pain he caused his family. Why retread such well-worn territory? In her foreword al-Shaykh (Women of Sand and Myrrh) speaks of rediscovering her own Arab roots while recognizing the power these ancient women held. Suprising and delightful, al-Shaykh's masterful work has restored the tale to contemporary relevance.