deviser/Director: Douglas Rintoul
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
The collection of Persian, Arabian and Asian stories that comprise what have become known as 1001 Nights have provided much inspiration for artists for generations.
The ultimate example of the power of storytelling seems an obvious theatrical vehicle and one that Transport Theatre explore in this revival of their 2013 production, as it embarks on a major UK tour.
This is no historical retelling, though. Director Doug Rintoul frames the stories against the backdrop of a young girl, Shahrazad, who flees an un-named Middle East conflict with her father, while leaving her mother behind. She takes refuge in the 1001 stories, a tome she has memorised word for word.
In the UK she shares these stories with a new-found friend, although the language barrier means the two barely understand each other. The universal power of storytelling, however, brings the pair together as they share the joy of play and narrative. While Shahrazad teaches her friend tales of the East, she in turn learns the European classic Cinderella.
Sadly that power of narrative is also the very thing threatens to swamp this production. For a family-friendly show it seems somewhat worthy and wordy. While the dialogue flows thick and fast, its delivery is not always clear. And, while the fun of the story telling engages young audiences, the overlaying of the refugee thread seems aimed at a much older audience.
Samantha Béart and Keshini Misha work well together and have great fun creating the classic tales from the detritus of everyday life that surrounds them but need to dial back the exuberance a couple of notices to allow the power of the words to permeate. There’s a restrained performance from Krystian Godlewski as the father but, again, audibility issues mar the performance, even in an intimate venue such as the New Wolsey.
The power of story is celebrated here but some of the magic is somewhat lost in the execution. While it’s admirable that young theatre-goers are challenged to broaden their experience, the end result is something of an unsatisfactory telling.
Runs until 7 May, 2014 and then tours nationally.