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Iranian

Nights

Sadia Amjad Rana


Iranian Nights
Howard Brenton and Tariq Ali wrote this play together quickly in five exciting days, this speed
was essential because play is a response to the crisis in this country generated by the appalling
predicament that Salman Rushdie finds himself in.

The play is not about Rushdie and his troubles nor it is about his book. Witty and irreverent,
IRANIAN NIGHTS is intended to foster a true understanding of Islam and Islamic Culture. For
IRANIAN NIGHTS is a modest exercise in the right of free expression. Play is for the awareness
of the audience.

The play was first performed on 19th April 1989 and runs for approx. 45 minutes without an
interval.

Structure
The play is influenced by impressionistic theatre, impressed by folk tradition. Folk tradition
theatre was chorus, folk music and songs. But Iranian Nights doesn’t include specific chorus as
the characters plays the role of chorus as well. There are no folk songs as well, but there is poetry
with a traditional war music. The play lacks the sequence as there is no specific storyline so no
beginning and ending to the play, sequence of events. The play has very strong thematic
concerns as it vividly shows images narrated by the character Scheherazade.

Stage Setting
The stage is not decorated with the props and no setting and scene is given. No description is
given in the play regarding stage that where the scene in the play is happening.

In the beginning of the play, there is darkness on the stage. The muezzin calling the faithful to
prayer, impressionistic technique is used to describe time and scene. It is early morning Fajar
time and the faithful are going to mosque. Later in the play no further description is given about
time too.

Language
The language of the play is obscene, bawdy and vulgar as well. Foul language is used in the
play to strike the audience with the images of the characters. A broad exposure of life is
expressed through language. The English used is also contemporary with some formal Islamic
terms. The language is modern and all images are modern. The language used by Scheherazade
for her stories is bawdy but it was essential for giving the impression of reality. Even the story
changes with the language, the reader through the dates guesses the time and the period of the
scene, either present or past.

Characters
There are three Characters mentioned in the beginning of the play that is ‘The Caliph’
‘Scheherazade’ and ‘Omar Khayyam’.

In the beginning of the play Omar Khayyam approaches and eyes the audience, starts a story
like a prologue. It’s a folklore tradition in which prologues are included.

Scheherazade is a historical character taken from the folk tale ‘One thousand and One Night’ in
which the girl narrates different stories to the King. Scheherazade narrates stories to the Caliph,
the story she narrates is all having modern images. So it is all a mixture of past and present. The
stories she narrates are ironic, witty and satirizes the Caliphs, the Mullahs trying to hide their
weakness and those who kills and murders in the name of Islam. Her stories enlightens the
hypocrisy and dualities within Muslim society. It’s the character of Scheherazade that processes
the play and shifts the scenes from one to another in continuous manner, her character uses
history to relate present issues. The reader is oscillated between past and present so that reader
could get the issues well and learning from history should improvise decisions and views.
Scheherazade talks wisdom and reality.

The character of Omar sometimes act as a chorus as well as aside as he keeps the audience
hooked up with the procession of the play. The character of Omar was in the beginning and then
faded a bit.

The Caliph is representative if all the Caliphs that has passed or at present time. He is through
his character shown powerful and authoritative when Caliphs orders to shot the executioners who
are on strike.

Later as the play proceeds, the characters Omar, Caliph and Scheherazade seems to adapt the
role of other characters as well by merely changing robes. The characters shifts to another by
telling audience and in front of them.

The Caliph becomes the Holy Man, by putting on role, helped by Scheherazade it is also a
technique that no scene or change of actor or intervals take place, yet still there is change roles.
Omar later plays the role of the poet who did blasphemy. Scheherazade plays the role of chorus.
Later the Caliph plays the role of Father and Omar as Son who immigrated to North.
Another character of Satin introduced in the end of the play but no proper description or
introduction is given.

Critical Analysis
The story of the play begins with Omar narrating the story about nineteenth hundred and ten, in
town of Tabriz in Persia. But Caliph then scolds him, Omar begins with thirteen hundred and
sixteen. Omar is in constant contact with the audience.

Than Omar gives reference to a historical Arabian folk tale ‘One thousand and One Night’ to
the audience that Scheherazade tells stories to Caliph. Scheherazade’s stories are moralistic
about wisdom and intellectual whereas in those times women were treated merely as sex toys.
Her stories are about hypocrisy and dualities in Muslim Caliphs.

Authorial note by me

Sadia Rana

Freedom of speech does not give you the right to criticize


others, their beliefs and religion. Acknowledge them of
the right way by educating them. And before
commenting, or being blasphemous you better should
better have knowledge, if you don’t then don’t comment.