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Friday, 26 June 2015
1,001 nights were packed into under 140 minutes during this year’s Middle School Production of Arabian Nights. Girls from Years 7 to 11 brought a selection of Shahrazad’s famous stories to life in the Girls’ Division Theatre, immersing the audience both in the magic and intrigue of the tales, and also the drama surrounding the storyteller.
The Arabian Nights tell many different stories, but Shahrazad herself in involved in a dangerous narrative of her own: she has just been married to King Shahrayar, who has vowed to marry a new wife each evening and have her executed the very next morning so that she can never be unfaithful. After 1,000 young women have been killed, Shahrazad steps in as the 1,001st wife, hoping that with the power of storytelling she can stay alive for just one more day – and eventually soften the King’s heart so that no one else has to die.
One Thousand and One Nights is a collection of stories originally compiled during the Islamic Golden Age in Arabic. They have since been translated many times. Mrs Worthington decided to use Dominic Cooke’s RSC adaptation for the Middle School Production 2015. This version extracts a small selection of the traditional stories.
The tale of Ali Baba and the exploits of Es-Sindibad the Sailor are two of the most famous from the Arabian Nights collection, but the play also contained less well-known tales: the story of the Little Beggar, ‘How Abu Hassan Broke Wind’, and the tale of the Envious Sisters.
The girls transported the audience across the seas to exotic lands full of magical birds and diamond-filled valleys, caves containing vast amounts of treasure guarded by forty thieves hidden in jars, and even stones that roll, shout and come to life! As well as these fantastical spectacles, the girls created intense drama and laugh-out-loud comedy in equal measure as the stories unfolded.
Throughout these varied scenes, Shahrazad remains on stage with her audience – her husband King Shahrayar, her sister Dinarzad, and her father the Vizier – reminding the audience that this is all happening inside their imagination as a result of Shahrazad’s amazing storytelling technique. Interjections from Shahrazad to check that her husband is paying attention also heightened the drama of the frame narrative, never allowing the audience to forget that she must tell these stories to stay alive.
However, the Arabian Nights ended happily: the tales that crossed the stage, and more like them, keep Shahrazad alive for 1,001 nights until finally the King realises that he loves her and lifts the death sentence.
The girls did a fantastic job of portraying a wide range of characters, with many girls taking on multiple roles but managing to keep them all individual and interesting. The enthusiastic applause every night proved that once again the Year 7-11 girls have pulled off a spectacular piece of theatre.
Arabian Nights was directed and produced by Mrs Worthington with assistance from Miss Standring, while the set design, lighting and sound were arranged by Mr Kyle.
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