The Arabian Nights by Lynn Brittney

The approximate running time of 40 minutes.

The Sultan of Baghdad had a nasty habit of marrying young women and then chopping their heads off after a few days, when he found them boring! However, his last bride, Sheherazade, famously saved her own life by telling her husband a magical story every night for one thousand and one nights until he promised never to behead another wife. (The best bit is that he dropped dead himself a few years later – serve him right! However, we digress…) In this play, Queen Sheherazade visits the Bhagdad marketplace and tells two of her famous stories to the assembled people.

The play provides a fantastic opportunity for you to construct your own street market entertainments at the beginning of the play by using musicians, dancers, jugglers, pretend fire eaters and so on. Your imagination can run wild!

The two stories are The Fisherman and The Genie (a very salutary tale about how great wealth doesn’t always bring about great happiness; and Ali Baba (don’t worry – there aren’t forty thieves in the script, just a band of robbers which you can make any size you like).

All in all, the play has the potential to be spectacularly colourful. As with all our plays, there are full production notes that give advice on scenery, prop and costume-making.

There is no suggested music in this play but please feel free to add your own.

Minimum 13, maximum 22 speaking characters. Unlimited non-speaking dancers, acrobats, jugglers, etc. in the Bazaar.

As with all our plays, there are full production notes that give advice on scenery, costumes and props.


Here’s a sample


The scene is an Arabian bazaar. This takes place in front of the stage where the action of the plays is to take place. (If space is limited, then fill the stage with this scene and everyone can exit before the first play starts.) There are merchants selling fine silks, jewels, baskets and fruit. Music is playing. There are dancing girls, a snake charmer and a fire eater. There is a juggler and some beggars. The scene is very colourful and lively. (SEE PRODUCTION NOTES)

Alms for the love of Allah! Alms for the love of Allah!
(He makes a face) Ach! Everyone is too busy today to give money to a poor beggar. Mind you, living here, in this city, is so much better than it used to be. When the old Sultan was alive – now there was a mean man. He married twenty-seven wives and had every one of them executed when he got fed up with them. What a tyrant! Except…he never got the better of his last wife…Queen Scheherazade. She was his twenty seventh wife and, when she was forced to marry him, he told her that the minute she bored him he would have her head cut off. So, what did she do? She told him stories. Wonderful stories! Every night, for a thousand and one nights, she told him a magical story and the old Sultan was so entranced, he never did get around to cutting off her head! He died before he could get bored! So now Queen Scheherazade rules in his place and life is much better around here.

(Servant 1 enters)

Make way for her Majesty! The Queen approaches!

(SERVANT 2 enters)

Make way for Queen Scheherazade!

(SCHEHERAZADE enters and everyone bows. She sits on a chair in front (or side of) the stage and her people all sit around her)

Good day my subjects!
Good day Your Majesty!
Blessings be upon your Majesty!
Blessings upon your family your Majesty!
Thank you.
Please tell us a story Your Majesty!
Yes, please tell us a story!
Is that what you all wish?
Very well. I shall tell you the story I told to my husband on the 31st night after our marriage. It is a story of a genie, three wishes and great wealth.

Ah. But all is not what it seems. Let me begin.
There was once a poor fisherman who was too poor to buy a boat, so he had to content himself with wading out into the sea, as far as he could go, and casting his nets upon the water…

(There is a change of music to something more lyrical. The curtains open on the stage behind them and the action begins. (Or, everyone melts away, leaving SCHEHERAZADE sitting in her chair at the side of the stage))


(The FISHERMAN is casting nets on the water)

Oh, these nets are heavy! I wish I could afford to buy a boat, but fishing has been so bad this last year, I barely make enough for my wife and I to live on. Let’s see what’s in this net…a few small fish as usual…what’s this? Some kind of bottle. I wonder what is in it? Perhaps some rich merchant dropped it from the side of a ship. Perhaps it contains some fine wine or a special potion. Aargh! This cork is very tight! Whatever is in here won’t have been spoilt by the sea, that’s for sure!

(He can’t pull the cork out. He peers at the bottle, then he turns it upside down and shakes it.)

Nope. I can’t get it open. It’s just rubbish.

(He throws it off the stage (SEE PRODUCTION NOTES). There is a ‘magical’ sound effect and the GENIE appears from the side of the stage.)

Free at last! Who let the King of all Genies out of this bottle?
FISHERMAN (afraid and dropping to his knees)
I did, Oh mighty one!
Then I shall kill you at once!
FISHERMAN (outraged and standing up)
What! After I set you free! How ungrateful! If I hadn’t opened that bottle, you would still be in there – and you want to kill me! Why?