The Royal Court Theatre's Dominic Cooke directed his own carefully logical adaptation. Shaharazad (gracefully portrayed by Priyanga Elan) is the daughter of the king's Vizier (Nizwar Karanj). A gifted storyteller, she bravely plans to marry the king. Her sister, Dinarzad (Natasha Gordon), arrives at the palace to sleep at the foot of the marriage bed, waking an hour before dawn to request one last story. Shaharazad awakens the king (Paul Bhattacharjee) for permission. Hence, he hears the tale, incomplete with the arrival of the royal executioner, but spares his bride a single night to finish that story.
This pattern will be repeated 1,001 times while we see six imaginative and fanciful tales that offer lessons to reopen the king's heart to love and life.
Martina Laird, Richard Katz, Paul Chahidi, Yasmin Wilde, and Tristan Sharps complete the nine-member company who rehearsed this two and one quarter hour charmer in merely four weeks. In Story Theater style, they narrated and played all roles in the adventurous "Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves," the far-fetched "Es-Sindibad the Sailor," or the funny "How Abu Hassan Broke Wind, " plus three equally enchanting others. Clear sound by Crispian Covell aided talented musicians on both ends of the stage—Rebecca Austen-Brown and Damien Manning, playing Gary Yershon's mystical mood music. Georgia Sion's costumes flowed with movement director Liz Ranken's choreography, under Johanna Town's lighting.
Young children may be unnerved by gory deaths. Everyone else was clearly delighted. "Arabian Nights" is a New York dazzler!