Pros: Emily Hennessey is such a mesmerising storyteller. I couldn’t take my eyes off her!
Cons: I only wish we were all sat on a circle around a campfire.
The Crick Crack Club has spent the last 25 years touring the UK with storytelling performances in the most diverse spaces and Epic Sundays is the brainchild of their collaboration with the British Museum. Crossing the museum’s famous courtyard, I felt as I was about to start a journey through history. In my knowledge, ancient history and myth have never existed independently from each other and I can’t think of a better place on earth where this affinity could be officialised. It’s as if the museum wanted to give new life to the thousands of objects that are kept in its galleries, and the result is truly magical.
Once a month, until the end of 2016, the basement 300-seat BP Lecture Theatre hosts a Sunday afternoon session in which a narrator and a musician present a famous episode from some popular tradition from around the world. After Gilgamesh in September, it was the turn of the Hindu goddess Kali, a powerful figure who personifies creation and destruction simultaneously.
The tale starts from the very beginning of time, when Brahma had to establish the balance between good and bad. It explains the role of the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, before moving to the personal adventures of the latter. Travelling the world in search for real love, Shiva the destroyer one day meets a young girl called Sati and immediately falls in love with her. Against her father’s will, the maiden accepts to marry the god and moves with him to the top of a mountain. Some time later, whilst visiting her family, Sati decides to burn herself alive, with the intent of proving that destruction calls for regeneration but Shiva is heartbroken over his loss. Reborn as Parvati, the woman reunites with her divine love and the couple strives to have a child. Their plans are constantly boycotted, however, by the king of demons Raktabīja, who is aware of a prediction that says he’ll die by the hand of Shiva’s son.
In front of a sold out auditorium, the stage is simple and evocative. In the middle is a small altar decorated with garlands of marigolds, fruits and bowls of rice and flowers. On top, there are two statues of Kali and one of Ganesha. On the right is a platform where talented musician Sheema Mukherjee is seated with her legs crossed, in the typical posture of the sitar player. Her music is a sweet accompaniment that occasionally – and sometimes unexpectedly – becomes the centre piece.
On the opposite side, but free to move around, stands the mesmerising Emily Hennessey. Bare feet and wearing anklets made of little bells, she delivers her tale with impeccable body language and an ever so compelling intonation that gives shape and colour to her words. The narration is so absorbing that I couldn’t take my eyes off her and, for a moment, I wished to be sat around a campfire and surrounded by the Indian landscape. The emphasis with which the myth of Kali is presented and the fascinating surroundings of the British Museum offer, however, a suitable alternative. I’m eagerly looking forward to next month, when it will be time to wander with Ulysses on his Odyssey.
Storyteller: Emily Hennessey
Music: Sheema Mukherjee
Producers: British Museum and the Crick Crack Club
Booking Link: http://crickcrackclub.com/epicsundays/
Booking Until: Epic Sundays are performed once a month until December 2016.