Arabian Nights

Arabian Nights 2009 - The company enact the story of El-Sindibad. Photo by Keith Pattison © RSC

The star of Dominic Cooke's adaptation of Arabian Nights is Shahrazad whose bewitching tales include those of Ali Baba and Es-Sindibad. The play celebrates the power of the imagination and storytelling, told through a mixture of song, dance, puppetry and illusion.

The story

It's wedding night in the palace of King Shahrayar. By morning, the new queen, Shahrazad, is to be put to death like a thousand young brides before her. She has the one gift that can save her: the gift of storytelling.

With a mischievous imagination and silver tongue, Queen Shahrazad paints a dazzling array of stories and characters, summoned forth from strange and magical worlds populated by giant beasts, singing trees and crafty thieves. Can the power of storytelling save her life?

The production

Director Dominic Cooke returned to the RSC to direct his adaptation of the tales which was the first family show to play in The Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Dominic worked on the original tales held in 18 volumes at the British Library to come up with his adaptation. The play was originally performed at the Young Vic in 1998 and followed by a successful tour including the Edinburgh Festival, Dublin and New York. The version at The Courtyard in 2009/10 was expanded and developed specially for theatre's thrust stage.

The ensemble of eighteen for this production included Ayesha Dharker as Shahrazad, well-known for her role in Coronation Street, Silas Carson as the hard-hearted King and Simon Trinder as the acrobatic Little Beggar - he, like most of the company, took on multiple roles to tell the tales.

The director

Director Dominic Cooke is a former RSC Associate Director and currently Artistic Director of the Royal Court Theatre, London. His most recent production for the RSC was his acclaimed sell-out version of Malorie Blackman's Noughts & Crosses in 2008. Before that, he directed Macbeth, As You Like It, The Crucible (which won an Olivier Award), and Pericles and The Winter's Tale which formed part of our Complete Works Festival in 2006.


Arabian Nights was adapted and directed by Dominic Cooke and played at The Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon from 5 December 2009 to 30 January 2010.
Photo by Keith Pattison shows the company enacting the story of Es-Sindibad © RSC

Contact us & FAQs

Ticket Hotline

0844 800 1110
Mon-Sat, 10am-6pm

Email newsletter

Sign up to email updates for the latest RSC news:

RSC Members

Already an RSC Member or Supporter? Sign in here.

Teaching Shakespeare