1001 Nights, which is currently showing at the Unicorn Theatre, is a play that hits you in the gut from the get go. The story follows a young girl named Shahrazad (Danusia Samal) and her father (Thomas Padden) as they escape their war-torn country in The Middle East and head to England, but she has to leave her mother (Ritu Arya) behind, as she does not have a passport. The stories help Shahrazad deal with the heartache of not knowing where her mother is, but she also helps another kid from her school (also played by Arya) deal with bullies.
The play itself is very story-driven, using the tales from the classic Persian and Arabian stories and adapting them for a younger audience. Douglas Rintoul has managed to take these stories and give them a fresh new sound, appealing to the young audience today.
This three-strong cast do not have a lot of time to win the audience over, but within the first few minutes, with a rather crude but very funny story of a man who farts at his wedding and banishes himself to India, it becomes very apparent that the audience were willing to enjoy the ride.
It could have been easy to make the stage extravagant but they make a very bold choice in using everyday items as the main props. James Perkin’s very lavish imagination shows the younger audience that it is OK to be imaginative. The greatest thing about it that the half term crowd were in awe of it too. It is essentially actors on stage running around with brooms and paper bags pretending that the objects are demons and magic carpets. It takes a special kind of company to keep this great illusion, and the cast and crew of 1001 Nights capture it so brilliantly.
The cast have a great unity on stage, which is probably even better due to the fact that they also perform together in the Unicorn Theatre’s other play, Liar Liar. After seeing her perform in both shows, it is becoming quite clear that Arya has a great career ahead of her, earning the biggest laughs of the show with her comedic retelling of Cinderella. The whole cast are great and, with the success of this double-bill at the Unicorn, I hope to see them in the future.
1001 Nights is a very compelling story of family and friendship that has enough imagination to win over its younger audience and has enough heart and nostalgia to win over the older audience. If this does not warm your heart then I don’t know what will.
1001 Nights is playing at Unicorn Theatre until 17 March. For more information and tickets, see http://unicorntheatre.com/1001-nights