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Arabian Nights Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield on a cracking production by The Library Theatre

Published on December 4th 2012.


Arabian Nights Reviewed

THE LIBRARY Theatre has done it again with an enchanting version of Arabian Nights. The excellent standard of recent years with the company's Christmas shows has been more than maintained.

With Arabian Nights the Library Theatre has again proved how providing a very immediate, very direct, very clever show can reach right to the heart of the theatrical experience. It's electrifying stuff. 

This lively production, directed by Amy Leach, mingles laughs, slapstick, drama, a tinge of shock/horror, sumptuous sets and bravura. There's a cucumber packed with pearls and even a proper panto horse.

Orientalism -Osman Hamdi BeyOrientalism -Osman Hamdi BeyThe production looks a picture too with a hand painted set a-dazzle with fake tiles and mudejar arches. These effortlessly conjure mind's-eye images of The Alhambra, and half-remembered paintings seen in dusty galleries of the nineteenth century passion for Orientalism. Very clever.

The Library Theatre has also, for this production, written by Dominic Cooke, turned the Quays theatre at The Lowry into a theatre in the round. Seating has been packed in back of the stage to create a proper little souk. This works well, everywhere you look there seems to be something going on. 

View from the stage, in the theatre in the round configurationView from the stage, in the theatre in the round, configuration

As usual with Library Theatre productions, the low budget means the director and the actors have to make up for a lack of technical and digital wizardry. The result is a triumph of wit and contortion that is fall-over funny. This is beautifully honest theatre. 

King of the hill in all of this is the superb Tachia Newall, a young man, who grabs the limelight every time he wanders, gallops, hops, skips and charges on to stage. The 22-year-old former Chorlton High School pupil (Corrie and Waterloo Road) plays his several roles in Arabian Nights with perfect timing.

Tachia NewallTachia Newall

Pick of the female actors is Jo Mousley, who not only does slapstick remarkably well, but can be properly sinister too. Rokhsaneh Ghawam-Shahidi makes for a very good, and accurately prim, Shahrazad, spinning her stories to save her life and the soul of the king. 

Paul Barnhill is a joy whenever he appears on stage. His delivery, and the manipulation of his voice, can turn the simple statement, "Hello dog" into the cue for bellowing laughter. 

With Arabian Nights, the Library Theatre has again proved how providing a very immediate, very direct, very clever show can reach right to the heart of the theatrical experience. It's electrifying stuff. 

One caveat though, the production is two hours and 25 minutes long. The first part is two thirds of that.

If taking kids make sure you plan ahead, but please don't let that put you off.

Arabian Nights is by The Library Theatre and takes place at The Quays Theatre in The Lowry. Friday 30 November 2012 - Saturday 12 January 2013. Click here

Follow Jonathan Schofield here @JonathSchofield

Arabian NightsPaul Barnhill in Arabian Nights by Dominic Cooke, directed by Amy Leach, presented by the Library Theatre Company at The Lowry (Friday 30 November 2012 - Saturday 12 January 2013). Photo by Jonathan Keenan

Arabian NightsEmilio Doorgasingh in Arabian Nights by Dominic Cooke, directed by Amy Leach, presented by the Library Theatre Company at The Lowry (Friday 30 November 2012 - Saturday 12 January 2013). Photo by Jonathan Keenan

Arabian Nights - Tachia NewallTachia Newall in Arabian Nights by Dominic Cooke, directed by Amy Leach, presented by the Library Theatre Company at The Lowry (Friday 30 November 2012 - Saturday 12 January 2013). Photo by Jonathan Keenan

Arabian NightsPaul Barnhill, and, Jo Mousley  in Arabian Nights by Dominic Cooke, directed by Amy Leach, presented by the Library Theatre Company at The Lowry (Friday 30 November 2012 - Saturday 12 January 2013). Photo by Jonathan Keenan

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