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ARABIAN NIGHTS
Silas Carson as King
Shahrazad, RSC
Arabian Nights.
“thEsE storiEs ArE DErivED froM thE strEEts, thEy’rE Not offiCiAl,
AND so thE issuEs iN thEM ArE uNivErsAl.”
ruler Shahrayar, driven mad by his first wife’s infidelity. the imagination to change and heal everyone who comes into
Branding all women unfaithful, he decides to take a new bride contact with it, which is what I believe about the theatre,” he
every night and execute her in the morning, until he marries the reveals. He recalls how his early experiences as a teenager read-
resourceful Shahrazad, who survives each night by enchanting ing books, going to the theatre and watching films shaped the
him with her tales which span the globe, and wins his love in way he viewed the world and fed his imagination. “I believe the
the process. arts can change your perception of the world and for me they
Cooke referred to the eighteen-volume English translation have. The core idea of storytelling to heal a person in Arabian
held at the British Library as his source for the original tale. The Nights is what really appealed to me.”
range of stories, from thriller and slapstick to an epic quest are The play’s multi ethnic cast, headed by Indian actress Ayesha
what initially drew him to Arabian Nights, but he cites the sto- Dharker as Queen Shahrazad and British actor Silas Carson as
rytelling element as the main inspiration for the adaptation. her volatile King reflects the steps being taken towards thea-
“When I first began researching One Thousand and One Nights tre to be more representative of today’s multi-cultural society.
I was amazed by its variety and complexity. A lot of its content Cooke acknowledges more needs to be done to draw the inter-
was adult, so I knew I had to find stories that worked for kids est of people from non-traditional Black and Minority Ethnic
but what really appealed to me was the idea that storytelling or (BME) backgrounds into playwrighting, the reason why the
the imagination can save your life, because Shahrazad famously Royal Court has been running an initiative specifically for BME
tells stories to save her life,” he explains animatedly. “For me writers and a separate one for writers from Muslim commu-
it’s a metaphor for the power of creativity and the power of nities. “We do a lot of work to encourage people to write plays ÿ
www.emel.com | emel magazine 39
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