And when Scheherazade realized it was the morning time; she kept silent about the permissible words.” This is how all the stories that the heroine told the king over the course of One Thousand and One Nights ended. So that he, the king, would not kill her, as that was his custom with his wives, for he killed every girl he married exactly at the dawn of every day.
The tales of One Thousand and One Nights return to the United Kingdom, reclaimed and reimagined, as Shakespeare’s Globe Company and Tamasha are preparing to announce the actors and partners for the premiere of their joint product (Hakawatis: Women of the Arabian Nights) by the writer at Shakespeare’s Globe Company, Hannah Khalil.
Starting from the first of December, and until the fourteenth of January, this show will be presented in collaboration with Tamasha artistic director Pooja Ghai.
Ghai returns to the Sam Wanamaker playhouse to direct the play Hakawatis after her famous production of The Lions and Tigers in 2017.
Hakawati /hakəˈwɑːti/. Noun: Storyteller. From the Arabic terms hekaye meaning story and haki meaning to talk. A tyrant revenges his wife’s infidelity by wedding, bedding, and beheading a new bride every day. Years later, only five brides-in-waiting remain.
Hannah Khalil’s re-telling of this classic story includes writing contributions from Hanan al_Shaykh, Suhayla El-Bushra and Sara Shaarawi, and translations by Hassan Abdulrazzak.
Writer Hannah Khalil says: “It has always baffled me that the 1001 nights story cycle has been presented as a work for children in the West, when the original tales and framing device are so dark and sexual and full of moral ambiguity So to have the opportunity to reclaim them and reimagine them afresh, working with writing heroines of mine is a great privilege. And to get to do it at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse – one of the most beautiful theatres in the world under the direction of Pooja Ghai – well it’s the stuff of playwrighting dreams!”
Director Pooja Ghai says: “I am thrilled to be returning to the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse to direct Hannah Khalil’s Hakawatis – a bold and passionate new play that celebrates the power of storytelling by reclaiming the original tales of 1001 nights. Since the dawn of history stories have created empathy, understanding and community. Here they become the weapon against a King who seeks vengeance, they become tools to subvert the establishment and the patriarchy, they are the rallying cry for united action amongst the women who remain in captivity. They release the hope, nourishment, vulnerability, strength, love and conviction that these women have to change themselves and the world around them through the power of their collective imagination.”
The cast of Hakawatis: Women of the Arabian Nights comprises Houda Echouafni as Wadiha the Dancer, Alaa Habib as Fatah the Young, Laura Hanna as Zuya the Warrior, Nadi Kemp-Sayfi as Akila the Writer, and Roann Hassani McCloskey as Naha the Wise.
Full cast biographies are as follows:
Houda Echouafni will play Wadiha the Dancer. Theatre credits include: The Boy With Two Hearts (The National Theatre) A Museum in Bhagdad, King John (Royal Shakespeare Company); One Thousand and One Nights (The Royal Lyceum Theatre) Dialogues from Babel (The Traverse) Blackout (SUMMERHALL); The Things I Would Tell You (The Traverse) Hassan Lklishe (Royal Court Theatre); Return (Soho Theatre). Television credits include: Jesus: His life (History Channel) Doctors (BBC)Green Wing (channel4) Hotel Babylon (ITV) Sea of Souls (BBC) The Grid (Fox Network) Waking the Dead (BBC). Film credits include: I Saved My Bellydancer, Dirty War, Piercing Brightness Leviathan.
Alaa Habib will play Fatah the Young. Theatre credits include: Frozen, The Theban Trilogy, The Provoked Wife Cymbeline, Kefiyeh, Made in China, Close Quarters, King Lear (RADA), Veils (Theatre 40), Veils (Road Theatre). Film credits include: Argyle (David Reid, Adam Bohling), American Nightmares (Patriot Pictures). Television credits include: High-End Homeless (non-TX Pilot) (Channel 4), The Power (Sister Pictures/Amazon), The Last Ship (Warner Brothers), NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS).
Laura Hanna will play Zuya the Warrior. Laura trained at LAMDA and has recently performed in Once Upon A Time In Nazi Occupied Tunisia at the Almeida. Other theatre credits include Living Newspaper Edition 5 (Royal Court Theatre), Signal Fires (Fuel Theatre), Leave A Message – Isolated But Open Monologues Online (Papatango Karaoke (Bunker Theatre), A History Of Water In The Middle East (Royal Court Theatre), Give A Man A Bible (Pint Sized/The Bunker Theatre), Rest Upon The Wind (Matar Ventures), The Sweethearts (The Finborough Theatre/Raising Dark), Palindrome (Miniaturists), A Bright Room Called Day (Southwark Playhouse), Foreplay (King’s Head Theatre), Red Peppers/Still Life (Folie a deux/Old Red Lion), Lean (Strip Theatre/Tristan Bates Theatre), The Warden (Traffic of the Stage), Much Ado About Nothing (Serendipity Productions), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (ASC Random/The Chelsea Theatre), Beasts And Beauties (The Hampstead Theatre). Television credits include Heartstopper S2 (Netflix). Radio credits include The Old Man In The Moon (Holy Mountain/BBC Radio 4), The Arabian Nights (Holy Mountain/BBC Radio 4), The Eustace Diamonds (Goldhawk Essential/BBC Radio 4).
Nadi Kemp-Sayfi will play Akila the Writer. Previous work for Shakespeare’s Globe includes The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet (2022), Twelfth Night, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2021). Theatre credits include The Whip, A Museum in Baghdad, King John (RSC), War with the Newts (Knaïve Theatre), Wake, Mittwoch Aus Licht Life is a Dream (Birmingham Opera Company), 101 Dalmatians, Between The Two, Three Wheels on the Wagon The Witches’ Promise, Under The Stars (Birmingham Rep), Hijabi Monologues (The Bush Theatre), Phone Home (Upstart Theatre & Creative Europe), Save our School Dinners… Jamie! (Belgrade Theatre Coventry & Old Rep) Burning Books, She (Arena Theatre). Radio credits include The Archers (BBC) and Words and Music (BBC).
Roann Hassani McCloskey will play Naha the Wise. Roann studied at The University of Kent & Sorbonne Nouvelle. This is her first time working with Shakespeare’s Globe. Theatre credits include: NewsRevue (Canal Cafe Theatre) Bayside the Musical (The Other Palace), My Father The Tantric Masseur (Soho Theatre/Edinburgh Fringe ’19/CCA Glasgow/Lawrence Batley Theatre), Who Murdered My Cat? (Arcola Theatre/Edinburgh Fringe ’22). Immersive and site-specific work with Dank Parish and Specifiq.
Hakawatis: Women of the Arabian Nights was cast by Becky Paris, Head of Casting at Shakespeare’s Globe.
Maariyah Sharjil – Assistant Designer
Layla Madanat – Assistant Director
Matt Haskins – Candle Consultant
Kareem Samara – Composer
Sabia Smith – Costume Supervisor
Rosa Maggiora – Designer
Pooja Ghai – Director
Glynn MacDonald – Globe Associate, Movement
Tess Dignan – Head of Voice
Jess Tucker Boyd – Movement Director & Intimacy Director
Katherine Heath – Seasonal Voice Coach
Hannah Khalil – Writer