The Champion Of Paribanou: Background

The Champion Of Paribanou is Alan Ayckbourn's 50th full length play and was written in 1996 as the Christmas play for the Stephen Joseph Theatre. This was notable for two reasons: it was the first new play written by Alan for the theatre’s new home at the former Odeon cinema building and it was his first Christmas show in a new venue which offered the opportunity for a far more ambitious production technically than the company had ever staged before.

The inspiration for the piece came, appropriately enough, at a Christmas party. From a grab-bag of presents, Alan was given a copy of
The Magic Carpet, an adaptation of one of the tales from the book The One Thousand And One Nights. He read the story during the party, was intrigued by it and felt the story could make an exciting Christmas show.

By the time the play was written, the original story had changed quite radically and been replaced with an epic fantasy and love story with a highly moral centre questioning good and evil and the consequences of the choices we make. The story also made a radical departure from its source material by making the female characters, particularly the Princess Nouronnihar and the maidservant Murganah, strong and independent characters with clear opinions on their futures.

The Champion Of Paribanou was a technical challenge for the Stephen Joseph Theatre featuring, among other things, a flying magic carpet, a puppet called the bookmarker and two major sword-fights. The challenges enabled the designers to use a new feature of the Round. The stage floor is actually a lift, which can be lowered below stage level and another stage floor built up from this. In essence this gives below-stage access and allowed for the installation of fast-traps and the mechanism to make a carpet fly.

Alan also admits the play is full of film references - since childhood, the playwright has been a dedicated fan of the cinema. Indeed the Financial Times described the play as “
Arabian Nights Meets Star Wars.” One thing is certain, like all of Alan’s plays for young people, there is more to this play than initially meets the eye.

The play premiered in November 1996 and was a success for the theatre with audiences young and old alike. It was revived by Alan Ayckbourn in 2005 at the Stephen Joseph Theatre with an even more ambitious production. The play has been published by both Samuel French and Faber & Faber.

The Thousand And One Nights

The Thousand And One Nights or The Arabian Nights is a collection of Oriental stories, attributed to the Arabic writer Alf Laylah Wa Laylah which draws together oral story-telling tradition centuries old from throughout the Middle-East.

The premise of
The Thousand And One Nights is the King Shahryar discovers his wife has been unfaithful to him and has her and all those who have betrayed him killed. Loathing all women, he announces he will marry and kill a new wife each day until there are no candidates left for him to marry. In a bid to save herself and the women of the Kingdom, the Vizier’s eldest daughter, Shahrazad, insists on marrying the King to implement a clever plan. Each evening she tells a story, but does not complete it, promising to finish it the next night. The stories are so entertaining the King keeps putting off the execution until he eventually abandons the plan.

In written form, the stories can be traced back to the 8th century - although they continued to develop and expand until the 16th century - but are undoubtedly of a far earlier origin and drawn from throughout the Middle East, not just Arabia.

The Thousand And One Nights was first translated for a western audience by Antoine Galland from 1704-12, in 12 volumes. The first English text was John Payne’s little-known 13 volume edition, published between 1882-84. This formed the basis of Sir Richard Burton’s famous 16 volume edition, published between 1885-1888, which is probably the best-known of the English translations.

Among the many stories in the collection are the tales of Sinbad the sailor, Aladdin and Ali Baba. All of which have become famous throughout the world.

Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.