To Stage / Theme
Sheherazade must be one of the very, very few female characters that is inspirational.
And yet, of her seems to have remained only the name.
We know that she is beautiful and that she tells beautiful stories so that her monster of a husband & sultan doesn’t cut off her head at dawn, when the sun rises.
And then that’s about it, and we hurry to tell her stories in her place: Sinbad the Sailor. Aladdin and the marvelous lamp. Ali Baba and the 40 thieves.
And then what happens next? Perhaps we will evoke these 1001 nights during which she told stories. And then some more.
And yet, the 1001 Nights comprise 12 volumes. A complete volume for Sindbad, it’s true. But what happened to all the other stories?
I say that because we have a gold mine in our hands and we don’t use it.
So what I would like, for a season of shows, is to build a whole season around the great figure of Scheherazade.
It would start with her.
How can there be nothing about her? Nothing about her husband? Who still knows that this man was the most passionate lover there is? That he had absolute adoration for his first wife? That she was the fire of his soul, his sweetness and fervor?
Who still knows what the violence of his pain was, when he realized that she not only did not love him, but she was unfaithful to him with everyone who moved as soon as his back was turned?
And yes, after such love and sorrow, a sorrow so absolute that its effect must have been felt in all the sensitive parts of the world, this man wanted to change his heart into stone.
It’s a very beautiful desert song that the man who had cried so much, so much, that his heart had dried up and become a stone – then he could throw it to the dogs, without ever having to hurt himself again.
And yes, the Sultan then consumed one woman a night. A wife he killed in the morning, without a gesture of compassion for her.
Until there were no more young women left – except one, that of his Vizier – one that his father desperately hid, how could his little girl, his Sheherazade, die for the fault of another?
But the Sultan was their lord.
Sheherazade knew his so terrible love story. She told her father that she was not afraid. Heartbroken, he brought his daughter.
And here comes one of the most extraordinary women of the human imagination.
She knows the immense grief of her new husband. She feels the wound that kills him and that will probably kill her first. But she is not afraid.
She chose to marry this man when she could, thanks to her father, have escaped this destiny.
She wanted to soothe the senseless pain that had made him harder than stone.
And she did so with the only thing she knew how to do: she decided to tell him stories. She wanted to take him on a journey with her, to other words and other stories, to other places and other souls.
She is smiling as she walks towards him. It is happy that she becomes his wife. And it is radiant that after that, under the stars of Arabia, she takes him in her arms, caresses his head and begins her first story.
– I’m cheating a little with you: Sheherazade had only one fear in joining this man who was to become her husband: she didn’t know if he would want to listen to her stories. So she had recourse to her little sister, who comes and asks, an hour before daylight, to hear “her” story. The sultan could have refused her. Could have refused it all – but the tale says that he had already been charmed by the beauty of Sheherazade and that it didn’t take long for him to put off the death of his beloved until the next day. –
He has his head on her belly, his eyes half closed, and while the sky pales and the stars disappear, he lets his wife’s sweet voice enter his heart, telling the story of The Merchant and the Genius . It is an unpretentious story: here is a merchant who kills without realizing it the son of a genius. But the way in which the merchant manages to get away with it is a splendid setting of what Sheherazade experiences: if ever the genius is charmed by a new story, will he be able to forgive ?
So every night the two of them go from story to story. Very quickly, the Sultan allows himself to do so and begs her to save the end for the next evening.
Children will be born – and come on their parents’ lap.
and the spectre of revenge will disappear, no one will be afraid anymore.
But it is with immense pleasure that the reader witnesses the creation of this unique bond of love between these two – and for once, it is a beautiful love story without mawkishness -and I tell you that it would be a mistake not to plan shows inserted in the year that show us the evolution of the love between these two.
No one has done that yet – it’s a shame, because 1001 Nights has so many stories, in so many styles that you can almost program a whole year: in theatre, in dance, in music, in circus, with puppets, in shows for young audiences, in adult shows (not everything works in all audiences). There are wonderful stories. There are cruel stories. There are very, very funny stories – it’s all there.
Not all these stories are brilliant and extraordinary, it’s true, some of them were told so that he would know that she was there, with him, and that was surely the most important thing between them at that time. They are stories that you hear once, no doubt, and you don’t have to put them on a stage – but she told so many others that are pure wonders.
The Year of Sheherazade : wouldn’t it be a beautiful year of shows?
And besides, the story ends happily.
Featured Image : Exhibition 1001 Nights – BNF – Printmaking