"A storytelling tour de force"
by Rebecca Wall for remotegoat on 11/03/18

Epic Sundays at the British Museum never fail to impress, but ‘1001 Nights’ was particularly masterful. Confounding my expectations, the narrative began not with Sheherazade, but with the death of a rich merchant, and his dying words of wisdom to his son. Inevitably, a dramatic reversal of fortune ensues, and tale after tale twists and unfolds like a Russian doll. Chirine El Ansary was a powerful and seductive presence, switching from English to Arabic to brilliant comedic effect, her expressive gestures ensuring that somehow nothing was lost to an anglophone audience.

The performance was presented as part of HeForShe Arts Week, and refreshingly and convincingly conveyed both the male and female gaze, while exploring the eternal nature of desire, power, rulership, first love, and the relationship between parents and children. Witty and knowing, El Ansary told an ancient tale yet found contemporary resonance and relevance within it. The strong women that populated it undoubtedly came out on top, yet for all that its male protagonists were weak, controlling, or foolish, the experience was romantic, uplifting, and made the perfect date. Although densely packed with stories, I couldn’t help but wish, like the despotic and murderous king, for the storytelling never to end.

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