The Royal Shakespeare Company has announced further casting for The Magician’s Elephant, a new musical by Nancy Harris (book/lyrics) and Marc Teitler (music/lyrics) based on the novel by prize-winning children’s author Kate DiCamillo which will make its world stage premiere in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre from 14 October 2021 to 1 January 2022.
Actor, writer, storyteller Renu Arora will play the role of Madame LaVaughn, who tragically finds her herself paralysed after an elephant – conjured by The Magician of the play’s title – crashes through the roof of an opera house, crushing her legs in the process.
After a life-changing accident and near-death experience in 2017, Arora acquired a disability, changing the way she works as an artist. Her lockdown-inspired audio work reflecting on the parallels of her accident and the pandemic was broadcast by BBC Sounds. Her new 12-part arts podcast, The Burgundy Book, in which she reflects upon her life-changing experience, will be available in spring 2022 and is funded by Arts Council England (with additional support from Graeae, The Space and Disability Arts Online).
As a public speaker, Renu talks openly about her accident, near-death experience and artistic practice both in UK and overseas and is scheduled to take part in the International Association for Near Death Studies (IANDS) virtual conference in September 2021.
She will be joined by Amy Booth-Steel in the role of Narrator and Miriam Nyarko who will play Adele. Also confirmed are Lauren Jones (Lisette) and Chrystine Symone (Lamplighter).
They join the previously announced cast which includes: Sharif Afifi (Milliner), Marc Antolin (Leo Matienne), Alison Arnopp (Baker), Hannah Brown (Swing), Keisha Amponsa Banson (Gloria Matienne), Michael Carolan (Swing), Lucca Chadwick-Patel (Fishmonger), Stephen John Davis (Doctor), Zoe Halliday (The Elephant), Sam Harrison (Count Quintet), Forbes Masson (Police Chief), Wela Mbusi (The Elephant), Mark Meadows (Vilna Lutz), Suzanne Nixon (The Elephant), Alastair Parker (Magician), Wendy Somerville (Mrs Griswald) Summer Strallen (Countess Quintet) and Mandi Symonds (Sister Marie) and Jack Wolfe (Peter Duchene).
The Magician’s Elephant was originally due to run from October 2020 to January 2021 but was postponed due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19, which included the temporary cancellation of all RSC performances, events and other activities.
The production will mark the re-opening of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre – which marks its 60th anniversary in 2021 – and the return of audiences to indoor performances at the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon for the first time since March 2020.
The Magician’s Elephant tells the story of orphan Peter Augustus Duchene, who lives a frugal life in the lonely town of Baltese. Then one day, a magician conjures an elephant from the sky. The animal’s appearance sets off a chain of events so remarkable, so impossible, that it changes Baltese forever. Peter is catapulted into the quest of his life, overturning everything he ever thought he knew, and discovering that happiness can come from the most unexpected places.