Pros: Hypnotic and uplifting performances by renowned storytellers.
Cons: A bit of a slow start, but things pick up!
The Crick Crack Club, one of London’s most acclaimed storytelling companies, certainly does a cracking job of proving that no one is ever too old to enjoy listening to, or telling, a good yarn. People have been telling stories for an eternity – in every culture – to both entertain and educate. Arguably, this pastime is exclusive to humans and as such, provides a unique way of bonding. Throughout history, tellers have been respected as people of knowledge and wisdom, and when one hears a story told with insight and fervour, it is easy to understand why. Telling stories well is at the heart of Crick Crack’s work and there is no doubt – they are passionate about this ancient and timeless art form.
Fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe, the story of Morgana Le Fey is told by internationally renowned tellers Xanthe Gresham and Nick Hennessey. For 60 seductive minutes, they lure listeners into the world of Morgana, the fiendish counter Queen to King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Playing by her own rules, she foils their quests, dismantles the fragrant towers of each princess and wreaks general havoc, all from the safety of the shadows.
The performance uses music, song and games to check-mate medieval misogyny. Along the way, the magic of Gresham’s telling is helped by Hennessey’s hypnotic use of instruments. Her telling, accompanied by his infectious playing of the harp and singing, create moments of utter pleasure. At times – not unlike a child listening to a parent read his favourite book aloud – I was transported, lifted and fully gratified.
The work is not without risks: the interludes between Gresham and Hennessey, when they talk to each other about the performance, could easily fall flat and feel clichéd. Similarly, there are moments of the ridiculous, such as the re-enactment of a jousting tournament while riding Space Hoppers. When these moments came, I found myself coiling up and holding my breath, willing them to be successful. I had become so invested in my tellers that I didn’t want them to fail (perhaps evidence of the bond – or the magic – of storytelling). With just the right amount of silliness and a heap of experience, a good balance is struck: the pudding is not over egged and the risks pay off.
The only criticisms I have about the work is that the start felt slow, a little pedagogical and didn’t offer the immediate enchantment I wanted. Some of the dialogue was a bit fast paced at times, which meant I struggled to keep up. It is incredibly difficult to listen to someone for an hour, and on occasions I lost track of the story. This wasn’t helped by the noise interference in the venue; an added and most unwelcome distraction. I’d like to see this work in a more intimate and less traditional space, with the audience sat on cushions around the tellers. I came out romanticising about the perfect site-specific space for storytelling work and how the experience would be improved had there been logs burning on a fire, etc.
There’s nothing like the power of hearing a story told live. If you want to indulge yourself in fantasy, or want to feel like a child sat eagerly listening to a teacher tell a story on the carpet at primary school, then check out what Crick Crack Club is up to. Give your support to this wonderful art form – I know I will – and you won’t be disappointed.
Director: Juliet Forster
Movement Consultant: Jude Bird
Producer: York Theatre Royal
This production has completed its run, for more from Crick Crack Club: http://www.crickcrackclub.com/MAIN/EVENTSF.HTM