We walk around the small village quite early - too early perhaps - the one cafe isn't open yet and the few villagers we encounter are shy. If we are to hear the stories of the Berbers (the indigenous people of Morocco and from whom the storytelling traditions originated it will take more long term work and introductions. Nonetheless Noah makes some friends (of course) and we share a few words - or more accurately gestures - with a group of women waiting for the bus into Marrakech. Noah is the key - as to so many of our interactions with Moroccans. The language of baby is universal. Before we leave we do have a long conversation with Susan, our host and owner of the sanctuary. In her own way she is also a bridge like Lahcen and Tahir, on the surface she provides days out for sight-seeing tourists but as a retired human rights lawyer with a keen intelligence and sensitivity to the culture she has embraced as her own she also sees it as a responsibility to educate and re-educate the tourists who come to Morocco with no knowledge of or sensitivity to the customs and culture of a country so different from their own. In her own way she is a story-teller embedding her tales with a moral just as the tellers in the square do.
With literally hours before our flight home Lahcen has got hold of Abderahim the story-teller, so we head back to the Jemaa El Fna and (unbenknownst to Lahcen) to the very terrace on which we spent our last evening in Marrakech. The other storytellers we met before today were fascinating in their way but fundamentally showmen of a more general sort. By contrast Abderahim is the real deal, a master and a craftsman and it shows. He has spent decades mastering his art - reading books, translating them from classical arabic to darija and then learning them by heart. Some of his stories take days and days to tell, in blocks of 4 or 5 hours at a time. And some of his tales exist only orally and have been passed down from teller to teller over generations. Lahcen is so taken with him that he asks if he might return and work as his apprentice for a few months learning his stories and the ways of the halqa. Graciously Abderahim accepts.
3 hours of tea and stories later and we drive to the airport and board the plane. After a few Gin & fizzy waters (they were out of tonic - Lahcen threatens to complain!) we are all a little giddy with the altitude, the alcohol and the countless stories of the last fifteen days. It has opened our eyes, our hearts and our minds and made us re-examine what it is that we do as artists, as theatre-makers, as story-tellers.
And now to turn it all into a show.