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My Nights vision for family audience.

Bringing Arabian Nights to the stage, for a festive show in Edinburgh, was never going to be easy but playwright Suhayla El-Bushra couldn't say no.

She was approached by David Greig, Artistic Director at the Lyceum Theatre, and once she said yes to adapting it, she had to work out how to turn one thousand ancient tales into a Christmas cracker.

She said: "I got really excited.

I didn't know the Lyceum but I had heard about David taking it over and friends who live in Edinburgh were very excited about that.

"I looked up the theatre and the programme he had put in place and, of course, his work, precedes him so I was interested right away. It sounded like a good place to be.

"Arabian Nights is something I remember from growing up and something I have thought about adapting various times so it felt like a really good thing to do and to do a family Christmas show, it is the best show to do, a lot of fun. I don't know why anyone would say no to that.

"Adapting it was a big task.

We all agreed that Baghdad at that time was really, really cosmopolitan and was a real mish mash of different cultures because it was a real trading hub and people came there from all over the world and the stories reflect that and we really wanted to reflect that and keep that side of it."

The Arabian Nights is based on One Thousand and One Nights, a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales, and features the universal tales of Sinbad and Ali Baba, as well as mysterious genies, hidden treasure and an array of heroes and villains, including a chess-playing monkey and a flying horse.

The stories have been adapted for a family audience, not least the tale which frames everything with Scheherazade telling the tales to the Sultan who, in order to ensure his wife is faithful to him, marries a new bride each day, executing his previous spouse.

Her stories over a thousand nights earn her a stay of execution as he is desperate to find out what happens next in her stories and eventually he falls in love with her and they live happily ever after.

For the Lyceum show, which is directed by Joe Douglas and suitable for ages five and up, the story-hating Sultan imprisons her storyteller mum and every stall holder in the market and Scheherazade tells him her own tales to free them.

Suhayla said: "Obviously in the original, Scheherazade and the Sultan is quite a dark story. I must admit that side of things never sat all that comfortably with me so we wanted to make it more appropriate for family audiences so we made that much more suitable "We read through a lot of the stories, and spent along time picking ones that felt suitable for the audience, or that just had something in them that worked.

"We played around with them and tried to dramatise them and see what ones worked best.

"There are some which didn't need much at all, like one about a princess and a boy who gets turned into a monkey and a genie which felt just right as it was a for a young audience and for all age groups. There is one about a fart which, again, worked really well.

"There are others that fit into each other, like stories within stories within stories. We liked the structure of that but some of those stories have changed, I have written completely new stories or taken original and tweaked some of them slightly, so it was trial and error and just seeing what worked and just playing around with them all. It was a lot of fun."

n The Arabian Nights is at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh until January 6, 2018. Box Office: 0131 248 4848,


ONE THOUSAND TALES... Suhayla El-Bushra
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 10, 2017
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