by Dominic Cooke.

The Lowry (Quays Theatre) Pier 8 Salford Quays M50 3AZ To 12 January 2013.
10.15am 9, 10 Jan.
2.15pm 7, 8 Jan.
2.30pm 26-29, 31 Dec-5, 12 Jan.
7pm 26, 27, 29 Dec, 2, 4, 5, 11, 12 Jan.
Audio-described 28 Dec 2.30pm, 8 Jan 2.15pm.
BSL Signed 2 Jan 7pm, 8 Jan 2.15pm.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.

TICKETS: 0843 208 6010.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 20 December.

An ideal experience, magical and human.
A large school party saw this performance. Behaviour and appearance immaculate, their red school uniforms enhanced the warm, reddish tones of the Quays Theatre seating and much of the staging in this Library Theatre production – there’s no sense of a company at temporary home here (though that’s what the Library company is).

Former Library associate Roger Haines used to direct pieces like this, with storytelling sweep, and it’s splendid to find the spirit of his imaginative stagings surviving in the very independent style of young Amy Leach.

From Darwen, Lancs, Leach belonged to Bolton Octagon Youth Theatre. This is the season for curses as well as forgiveness, so politicians, national and local, think carefully which you want before you allow theatre funding cuts which could prevent such future careers – or school-groups being able to stock-up on enjoyment and at least a term’s worth of imaginative resources.

It’s not just the fluid staging as stories evolve on designer Hayley Grindle’s stage, built over the Quays stalls towards curves of audience in an all-embracing experience. They are excitingly staged, the human feelings apparent within the stories’ fantastical, supernatural happenings.

But Dominic Cooke’s script also shows storyteller Shaharazad using her stories to persuade her royal husband against his morning slaughter of a wife in revenge for their faithless forebear.

She knows the risk, but Rokhsaneh Ghawam-Shahidi makes her a spirited optimist (Kezrena James finely offsets her as the cautious, loyal sister) acting to save women. Initially, the steadfast women of the stories provoke King Shahrayar’s suspicious questions but gradually poisonous misogyny leaks away. Their raised room moves forward, the King’s voice and posture relax and he talks to Shaharazad with keen interest, as an equal.

Leach’s staging makes clear the turning-point – fittingly, at the interval. It’s a comic interlude about Abu Hassan’s unforgettable social indiscretion. Which makes the king laugh for the first time, the start of recovering the balance of his mind.

This script has had many productions, from its Young Vic London premiere; this, thanks to its director, designer and strong-willed yet composed Shaharazad, must be among the very best.

Es-Sindibad the Sailor/Captain: Paul Barnhill.
Vizier/Abu Hassan: Mark Carlisle.
King Shahrayar/Ghoul: Emilio Doorgasingh.
Shaharazad/Talking Bird: Rokhsaneh Ghawam-Shahidi.
Dinerzad/Parizade: Kezrena James.
Marjanah/Amina: Jo Mousley.
Little Beggar/Perviz: Tachia Newall.
Ali Baba/Bahman: Mitesh Soni.
Mrs Baba/Eldest Sister: Claire Storey.

Director: Amy Leach.
Designer: Hayley Grindle.
Lighting: Ciaran Bagnall.
Sound: Paul Gregory.
Composer/Musical Director: Arun Ghosh.
Choreographer: Amir Giles.

2012-12-25 19:51:54

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