by Neil Duffield
May the legends of old be lessons to
the people of our
time, so that a man
may see those things which befell
others beside himself, and wonder.
When Sheherazad is brought to the palace to be the Sultan’s new bride, her very life depends upon her skill as a storyteller. She tells him tales of lost cities and buried treasure, of slave girls and robbers, of genies in bottles and evil sorcerors. But will it be enough to save her?
The stories of the Arabian Nights originate from Persia, India and Arabia, and date back more than a thousand years. Neil Duffield has combined elements of many of them, keeping alive the excitement and humour to produce a show which transports the audience into a world of myth and legend where fantasy and reality can never be separated.
“Neil Duffield has the magic touch when it comes to dramatising myths and legends. He excels himself…with this comic and enchanting story…such exuberance. It teems with life and atmosphere. . . It is such a treat.” The Stage
“[The] adaptation mixes ancient and modern and elements of several of the Tales.” The Stage
“Like a Persian miniature in its case, this. . . is the quintessence of the Neil Duffield storytelling style. . . I recommend it to everyone.” The Sunday Times
“Neil Duffield’s play is both robustly comic and serious in its consideration of smart women who know how to get the upper hand, brotherly relationships and greed… There may be fabulous treasures and genies in abundance, but there is no magic formula to this play: it is merely simple, straight-forward storytelling, done very well… Duffield has interwoven the familiar and less familiar so you get a real sense of a never-ending story, and he has the gift of combining the accessible and down to earth with the mythic in a single sentence. It is a small show, but one of transformations and pleasures constantly reminding us that when one story ends another begins.” The Guardian
“a breath-taking 90 minutes with bags of pace and laughs a-plenty… The familiar story of Sherezade’s story-telling guile being used to outwit a blood-thirsty and misogynistic Sultan who takes wives for just one night before dispatching them with a sword in the morning, works on many levels… For an intimate seasonal show, it’s hard to imagine anything more satisfying than Arabian Nights.” Birmingham Post
“Duffield’s…best yet. A good story, colourful and exciting, clearly told but with ingenious details. A treat.” The Times
“Like a Persian miniature in its case, this delightful show is the quintessence of the Neil Duffield storytelling style… I recommend it to everyone.” The Sunday Times
Commissioned and first produced by Action Transport Theatre Company, December 1997; Re-writes for Theatre Royal, Bury Saint Edmunds, January 2017 (Production: 6-8 April 2017).
Cast Size: FLEXIBLE (MINIMUM 13)
Shahryar (m) Shahzaman’s younger brother
Dunyazad (f) Sheherazad’s younger sister
Wazir (m) father of Sheherazad and Dunyazad
Kasim (m) a rich merchant
Ali (m) Kasim’s younger brother, a woodcutter
Slave Merchant (f)
Marjiana (f) a slave girl
Jawan/Bashir (m) a robber chief
Jinnee (made up from chorus)
Chorus: storytelling nomads (m and f) become various things at various times throughout the play.
About the author
Neil Duffield has worked as a full-time professional playwright for almost 35 years and his plays have been staged extensively in theatres throughout Britain and abroad. Recent work includes: The Machine Stops (York Theatre Royal); The Ugly Duckling (Northumberland Theatre Company); The Road to Glory (The Point, Eastleigh); A Christmas Carol (Derby Theatre, Edinburgh Lyceum, Bolton Octagon); The Firebird (Dundee Rep); Dancing in My Dreams (Oxfordshire Theatre Company); The Minotaur and Leopard (Crucible Theatre, Sheffield) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (the Dukes Theatre, Lancaster). His play The Lost Warrior (commissioned by the Dukes Theatre, Lancaster) won the Arts Council England Children’s Award in 2006 for work that displays excellence, inspiration and innovation in children’s theatre. Neil lives in Bolton with his partner, Eileen Murphy, and loves to spend as much time as possible with their four young grandchildren, Toby, Gabriel, Clyde and Beatrice.