Pros: An enchanting evening performed by experts in their field, full of beautiful words that lift you from your seat and take you elsewhere.
Cons: Every story might not be to your last, but don’t worry: a different, fascinating story will be along in just a few minutes.
This year marked the tenth anniversary of The Crick Crack Club’s Day of the Dead. We were told that when the storytellers know they will be performing on this night, they start to compile and collect stories which weave in the threads of God, Death and the Devil. This evening is clearly an event on the Crick Crack Club’s calendar, and well it should be. Drawing on the Mexican tradition, what unfolded was the perfect way to celebrate the nights drawing in and the death of the year.
I’ve come to worry a little bit about the use of the Mexican idea of the Day of the Dead in the last few years. It seems to me there is a real risk of cultural misappropriation, but this evening felt so honest and respectful, and had in it a real way of appreciating the rich history of storytelling handed down to us by the generations that have come before. In 2015, when we have such easy and fast access to the pre-digested narrative of rubbish films and trashy television, to sit with a group and listen as stories were unfolded felt soothing and natural.
We were treated to the narrative talents of three lovely storytellers, all coming from different storytelling traditions as well as drawing on others. Clare Muireann Murphy’s beautiful lilting Irish voice was in stark contrast to the darkly humorous stories she told us, and she her first-rate comic physicality only served to enhance her storytelling. The best of this stories involved the attempts of three sisters to throughly humiliate their husbands, which they achieved valiantly, in incredibly creative fashions and to everyone’s pleasure (except, I suspect, the poor husbands…)
Next up, was TUUP, born to Guyanese parents and raised in Acton. His stories narrated the lives of a hypochondriacal old woman, whose friends took revenge upon her over-dramatic ways, as well as narrating us through the grief on an old man who’s wife had died, and, my personal favourite, the very funny story of one man’s four day long party for his ancestors which was so loud and raucous it attracted the displeasure of God. What was most striking about TUUP’s performance wasn’t the humour, although he was very funny, or the drumming with which he kept his own pace up, but rather his apparent spontaneity. I can’t tell, still, whether he was building these stories around a loose frame on the hoof, or he just had this remarkable ability to appear as if everything he was saying was coming to him then and there. Either way, his performance was some of the most skilful storytelling I’ve ever seen, and the wild passion with which he talked was thoroughly enthralling.
Our last storyteller was Xanthe Gresham. Most outstanding from her performance was the poem she had written for her grandmother, and which she performed with the help of the audience. In some ways it perfectly captured the evening: it somehow encompassed that odd mixture of emotions which descends when you recall the happy or funny moments you shared with someone you’ve subsequently lost. That simultaneous swell of grief and joy. Know the emotion I’m thinking of? That was this evening to a tee.
The thing that fascinates me about attending wonderful evenings of speaking, either rhythmically poetic spoken word nights or beautiful, referential storytelling, is the audience. Really, I should in no way be surprised by the amazing diversity that these evenings attract, after all the vast history and tradition of storytelling ranges across all cultures and ages. Yet sitting amongst the young and old, locals and people who had travelled far, first time attendees and loyal followers, I felt so happy that there has been a modern day revival of storytelling which has such broad ranging reach. Long may it continue – as long as it continues as brilliantly as this.
Performers: Clare Muireann Murphy, Xanthe Gresham and TUUP
Produced by: The Crick Crack Club
Booking Until: This was a one off event. To find out more about Crick Crack Club events visit http://www.crickcrackclub.com