Arabian Nights, Hoxton Hall London, 3***: William Russell



by Nessah Muthy


Hoxton Hall, 130 Hoxton Street, London N1 6SH to 13 October 2018,

Tues-Sat 7.30pm.

Runs 2hr 30 mins One interval

TICKETS: 020 7684 0060

Review: William Russell 22 September.

A thousand and one nights and more

This Iris production directed by Daniel Winder looks ravishing, makes good use of Hoxton Hall, which has been transformed into something out of this world, and has a hard working cast of six who play a multitude of roles and work wonders with some magnificent puppets large and small. There is much to admire. But it does go on and on until one’s patience with Sharazad an her continual story telling is exhausted and one wishes King Shahryar would do to her what he did to all his previous brides, and which her story telling skills have prevented him from doing to her – kill them the morning after the wedding night.

The play really needs trimming and clarification not to mention the deletion of some of the farting jokes. It also gets slightly uncomfortable at times, although it is part of the stories, is the treatment of women, no matter how clever Sharazad may be, as playthings to be enjoyed, abused and discarded.

She devises the story telling scheme to save her sister from becoming the Sultan’s next one night stand, takes her place, tells him stories that always over run on so that he keeps her until the next night to hear the ending. The stories include Aladdin and Sinbad the Sailor and everyone joins in playing the characters, manipulating the puppets and doing the special effects like the sea or a storm.

Terrific as the production looks it does drag, and although it goes back to the sources it also doesn’t seem to know its audience. There could be a decent adult fairy tale to tell but neither the author nor the director have found it and as a story for children it really does not work – which is presumably why the ones near me did not return after the interval.

There is much to admire, the production values are stunning, the whiff of incense in the air intoxicating and there is the pleasure of watching the cast navigate the complexities of playing a character while manipulating a puppet. But it also seems to last much longer than a thousand and one nights and whoever acquired the seating in the splendidly refurbished hall should be made to sit on them for as long as it takes to realise they are hideously uncomfortable.

King Shahryar: Oradessh Rana.

Sharazad: Sharon Singh.

Dunzayad: Izzy Jones.

Vizier Khalid: Hemi Yeroham.

Executioner: Ikky Elyas.

Musician: Maya Britto.

All other roles played by members of the cast.

Director: Daniel Winder.

Musical Director & Composer: Sonum Batra.

Choreographer: Nour Alkawaja.

Set Designer: Amber Scarlett.

Puppet Designer: Jonny Dixon.

Costume Designer: Maddy Ross Mason.

Lighting Designer: Benjamin Polya.

Sound Designer: Filipe Gomes.

Fight Director: Roger Bartlett.

Production photographs: Ali Wright.


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