Arabian Nights, Library Theatre at the Lowry, Salford

Rokhsaneh Ghawam-Shahidi in Arabian Nights. Picture: Jonathan Keenan
Rokhsaneh Ghawam-Shahidi in Arabian Nights. Picture: Jonathan Keenan

Few shows around this Christmas will fire up childhood imagination – for any of us – quite like this jewel-encrusted telling of the Arabian Nights legends.

It’s a low-tech interpretation of the tales in which so much of the delight stems from seeing the ways in which its cast achieve so many special stage effects.

Above all it’s a classic example of the power of story telling, wit and imagination.

A cast of nine play nearly 100 roles in stories that have been adapted by writer Dominic Cooke. They are taken from the original potent legends that saved Shaharazad’s neck from the chopping block as she spun them out nightly to a cruel king.

Director Amy Leach and designer Hayley Grindle lay them all out in a highly-effective staging set in the round at the Lowry’s Quays Theatre.

The aim was to re-create something of the fireside setting in which the tales were first peddled, but it also has the effect of putting its audience on display – and best behaviour.

Infidelity, execution and dismemberment (and that’s just in the first few minutes) might not be considered suitable material for young audiences, but they lap it all up with an exemplary conduct that would put some of their older counterparts to shame.

Any show that can still a young matinee crowd in moments is working a special kind of theatrical magic, and this is the kind of production that will surely set a lot of young minds on a creative path.

The escapades of Ali Baba or Sinbad will be more familiar, but stories like The Little Beggar, The Wife Who Wouldn’t Eat, or the Envious Sisters, are equally rich in imagery and morality.

Musician and composer Arun Ghosh adds his own lustrous soundtrack, live on stage, to an intoxicating and enchanting production.

Ride its magic carpet before January 12.

David Upton