The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, King's Theatre, Edinburgh (1/5)
One Thousand and One Nights, Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh (4/5)
Tuesday 23 August 2011
As I was the only person I knew who hadn't yet read Haruki Murakami's masterful novel, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, I promptly did so, which rather spoilt me for Stephen Earnhart's world premiere stage adaptation (co-written with Greg Pierce) at the International Festival.
The portentous mixed-media show at the King's, running at just under two hours, is absolutely the opposite of the novel, which is light, subtle and meandering and very funny, as well as horrifying in parts.
The hero loses his cat, his wife and his mind while simultaneously understanding the secret of the universe, or at least his part in it, which is tragically insignificant. On stage, the most you can do is a sort of Robert Lepage job on the elemental aspect of the narrative. Earnhart's production has a big blue moon, some live electronic music, a couple of vivacious choric incursions, a spindly wooden puppet and some fey encounters between James Yaegashi's slightly leaden Toru Okada and Maureen Sebastian's pert and punchy May Kasahara, the girl who succours him at the bottom of a dry well.
In starkly animated and colourful contrast, Tim Supple's two-play, six-hour staging of One Thousand and One Nights, scripted from the earliest versions of The Arabian Nights by the Lebanese novelist Hanan al-Shayk, is an instant classic of engaged story-telling.
The addictive, healing power of fiction is proved first by Shahrazad saving her skin by telling her rapist king a diversionary fable which then spins out into other sub-stories which she, and indeed the king, or at least the actor playing him, inhabit. It's a brilliantly conceived theatrical trick.
Instead of subsiding into static "one thing after another" mode, Supple's wonderful production maintains dramatic momentum in the need for each story to be told and they are revealed like a series of Russian dolls, one inside the other.
But what dark and vengeful stuff this is. No place here for Aladdin or Ali Baba: here are rapists, cuckolds and killers. Life is cheap, especially where women are concerned.
Whatever now happens in Libya, Nights, which was born in the Arab Spring and is performed by actors and musicians from across the Middle East, proves that liberty at large means nothing without freedom between individuals.
The actors speak in French, Arabic, English, with sur-titles – and bring to the stage a true atmosphere of courtyards, alleys and souks, and the hypnotic, scary enchantment of a rediscovered literary masterpiece.
'Wind-Up': to 24 August; 'Nights': to 3 September (0131 473 2000)
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
- 2 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 3 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 4 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 5 Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Three million books were judged by their covers - this is what happened
The Gamechangers trailer: Daniel Radcliffe stars in GTA movie
Joan Aiken: Today's Google Doodle celebrates life of British fantasy novelist
Photographer captures the beauty and intensity of his girlfriend giving birth at home
Jamie’s Sugar Rush, TV review: Defeated by school dinners, Oliver takes on a new enemy
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees