The Tale of Mrs Baba and the Forty Costume Changes

Actress Claire Storey lets us in on life in the Arabian Nights rehearsal room…

Anyone who may have innocently popped their head round the door of our rehearsal space at Z-arts this week may have been forgiven for thinking we’re all bonkers. You might have caught our cast of nine, plus Amy, our director, standing in a line holding hands with our eyes closed, biting our lips in concentration, trying to master a crazy new dance step being drilled into us by our choreographer Amir. Or discovered one cast member wearing a dressing gown and a scarf seriously discussing an important moment in the text with another one of the team wearing a plastic fish on his head, whilst others gather round our on-stage musician Arun, working together to encapsulate the sounds of the ocean with a clarinet, tambourine and drum.

The best thing about doing this acting lark for over 25 years is that I know I will never get bored. In my last job I was playing stuffy Miss Prism in the classic Importance of Bring Earnest and now, just weeks later, I’m playing a softly wafting palm on a desert island, a blind mango seller, a dizzy wife, a randy queen, a mysterious sorceress and an ancient marriage broker. Oh and not forgetting a crazed dog, a tired mule and a walking jar of oil. And that’s just in Act 1. The nicest thing about being an actor is that we get paid to play all day!

I’m lucky enough to be working with an amazingly talented bunch on this production of Arabian Nights. And the most important thing about a good company is feeling safe to experiment and to contribute. Sometimes the best ideas have come from the silliest and most surreal moments, meaning lots of rolling on the floor and loads of laughing. How many other jobs do you get to know your colleagues in one week by climbing on their back and pretending they’re a tree?

After meeting the various creative departments of the Library Company, our work really began when Amy set us a challenge; how can we represent a cave with a magical sliding door using just our bodies and sounds? Then, how can we create a market place that turns into a shop? Each challenge was greeted with mounting enthusiasm. Hey need us to represent a ship that turns into a desert island that turns into mountain range that finally turns into a valley of snakes? Easy.

Amazingly in this last week we have managed to work our way through the whole play. As well as some wonderfully funny moments, we found many darker and quite moving themes. Arabian Nights is an epic show and we’ve a long way to go before we can even start to think about costume changes and setting props, but what a fab, fun and exciting start of the journey it has been.

Arabian Nights runs at The Lowry Fri 30 Nov 2012 – Sat 12 Jan 2013. You can book tickets online here or from The Lowry Box Office on 0843 208 6010.