Eight writers from Iran, Kurdistan, Jordan, Lebanon, Sweden and Afghanistan. Eight skilled performers from Spain, Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq and elsewhere. 1001 Nights Now is a storytelling show with a great deal of punch, which takes its idea from the oriental narrator Sheherazade and spins a series of shrewd modern tales that have sharp political and, like the original, erotic overtones.
Each wittily written story examines the vexed cultural experience of those who form part of the new wave of Middle Eastern immigrants into Western Europe, and elucidates some of the dire problems they face both back home and on arrival. At best, it is forceful, racy, utterly cliche-free and entertaining. At the culmination, with actor Philip Arditti’s searingly earnest terrorist’s video letter to his family, it acquires real bite.
All the stories are engaging, though some overuse of background music and slight garbling prevented a few earlier ones, such as Catalan Francisco Alfonsin’s, from communicating clearly. It’s all located in a factory, and director Alan Lyddiard and designer Neil Murray go rather overboard with a vast set of boxes and baubles.
Yet several of the tales - Shazia Mirza’s wonderful evocation of the angst of Lesbian infatuation in a Muslim context, and Kourosh Asad’s harrowing reflection of abuse in Abu Ghraib - worked really well. The team’s frenetic packaging activity serves as a series of amusing (and skilful) entractes, and the strongly delivered second half seemed a huge improvement on the more wearying early scenes. A serious and worthwhile show, whose pithy and colourful texts amount to a lot more than light reading.