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)
tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods
tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas
comedy Erm...he seems to be back
tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa
tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different
- 2 Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
- 3 Andy Murray takes to Twitter to show off his Christmas jumper
- 4 Margaret Thatcher 'expressed fears of Asian rising' at Anglo-Irish summit in 1984
- 5 Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different
Madonna Rebel Heart: Pharrell Williams collaboration and 13 more songs leaked
Vagina canoe artist defends herself over ‘obscenity’ charges
Doctor Who Christmas special, review: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'