23 March 2011

Secrets of the Arabian Nights (BBC)




Secrets of the Arabian Nights broadcasts on BBC4, Thursday 21 April at 9pm.


Richard E Grant re-opens one of his favourite children's books, The 1001 Arabian Nights, to explore its extraordinary impact on Western culture. Journeying to Cairo, and the desert wildernesses beyond, he searches for the world that led to the creation of the Arabian Nights.

The stories first arrived in the West 300 years ago, translated from a 14th-century Syrian manuscript by the French orientalist Antoine Galland. Overnight the tales became a huge hit in every European country. Readers were fascinated by the central character, Sharazade, who each night recounted stories of princes, genies, demons and robbers, to her husband the King in a desperate bid to avoid execution.

Richard visits Galland's original manuscripts in Paris and explores how the stories inspired hit shows on the 18th-century stage in London. Three of the stories, Sinbad, Ali Baba and Aladdin, have inspired countless plays, pantomimes and films as well as becoming part of the literary canon for children and adults alike. However, during Richard's journey he also discovers that the tales are shrouded in controversy, including calls for a ban on The 1001 Arabian Nights in some parts of the world today.

The programme was produced and directed by Mark Fielder and Lizzie White for Quickfire Media, with music composed by William Goodchild.

See more of William's recent commissions here.