Four years ago, she was involved in a horrific accident. Little did she know it would leave her uniquely prepared to play a noblewoman hit by a falling elephant in the RSC’s new Christmas musical

One Wednesday evening in March 2017, everything changed for Renu Arora. The actor, singer and composer had invited a friend for dinner in her flat, and had rushed down the road to do some last-minute shopping. There was a queue outside the shop and her phone had run out of charge, so she was standing on the edge of the pavement keeping an eye out for her guest when a bus caught her foot and swept her under its wheels. “I always say my lockdown came two years before everyone else’s,” she says. “So when the pandemic struck, I had things to say artistically that I hoped would help the world in some way.”

We’re sitting in a side room at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s London rehearsal studios, where she is preparing for the big Christmas musical that will open in Stratford-upon-Avon next week. Her foot is encased in a clunky orthopaedic boot and her crutches are leaning against the table, but Arora glitters with energy as she discusses a role for which – in a way that is entirely in tune with the spirit of the story – her misfortune uniquely qualified her.

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