Roland Schimmelpfennig

Die arabische Nacht ("The Arabian Night")

Sunmmer: Water supplies for an entire high-rise settlement have broken down. But in one seventh-floor flat, Franziska, a young woman who can remember nothing, is having a shower.
She cannot remember how her life was before she moved into this rented flat together with her friend Fatima. Franziska cannot remember that she was once an Arabian princess. As she does every evening after taking a shower, she falls asleep on the sofa in the living room at sunset. Three men try and kiss her awake as if she were some kind of oriental sleeping beauty. Her neighbour from the building opposite observes the sleeping woman, comes into her flat, and kisses her. Suddenly he once again finds himself in the bottle on the table in front of the couch. The second, Fatima's lover, gets stuck in the lift and is stabbed by his jealous lady just before he manages to kiss Franziska. The building's caretaker, who hears water rushing through the pipes, searches for a leak and ends up by finding the sleeping woman on the sofa. Old and ugly though he may be, he finally succeeds in restoring the bewitched Franziska's awareness.

Responses to the Play

Die arabische Nacht consists of five monologues, linked together with great artistic subtlety. However this epic form is not an end in itself but rather takes into account the fact that the people involved in this nocturne are the solitary inhabitants of a high-rise settlement who thus talk to themselves. Parallel to that they tell of their experiences during a hot summer night. In the listener's head these partial views come together to form an overall picture, just like the threads in a carpet pattern.
(Christopher Schmidt in "Die Zeit", 15.2.2001)

When read, what can be so vividly staged is still a rigorously composed piece for listeners, an oratorio for five actors' voices. For many pages interaction is not necessary. Schimmelpfennig derives tension, story, and developments merely from complexly interwoven strands of narrative. If the words were not so dismissive, "Die Arabische Nacht" could be called tempting fodder for actors.
(Süddeutsche Zeitung, 6.2.2001)

The author, who worked in Istanbul for a time as a journalist, succeeds here in describing the oppressive heat of the Orient which makes every movement a titanic effort and drives the unfettered spirit into the depths of the unconscious. Fear and desire are no longer speechless. They pour out in scenes like those from "A Thousand and One Nights" (...) Bathed in sweat, one starts out of sleep. The dream is over. And yet the senses are still caught up in the experience of this nightmare. Rarely is a theatre text so involving.
(Tom Mustroph in "Stückwerk 3")

Technical Details

Premiere Staatstheater Stuttgart, February 2001
Director Samuel Weiss
Cast 3 m, 2 f
Rights S. Fischer Verlag GmbH
Theater und Medien
Hedderichstr. 144
60596 Frankfurt am Main
Tel. 069/ 60 62 339, Fax 069/ 60 62 335
Translations Theatre Library