Tell Tales 2015, Rich Mix - Review

Running once a year since 2012, Tell Tales is an ongoing collaborative event which facilitates artists from all disciplines coming together to share processes and practice, experiment, play and create new work.

Compèring the weekend's events were female comedy duo Franks and Skinner. Despensing with actual dialogue, Franks and Skinner utilised childlike sounds (à la Pob or Mr Bean) to gesticulate when performing their physical comedy. Some of their links between the main performances were very funny indeed, such as the lengths they would go to, to get the attention of the glittery Faunus (Kurtis O’Kasi) from Veil of Mab who makes an appearance.

In terms of the evening’s performances, they can roughly divided into two categories: the 'Arcadian' and the 'Postmodern'.

The evening began in earnest with a piece called Veil of Mab, a folktale that has been a part of the fabric of British folklore since pre-Shakespearean times and an influence on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Mab or Queen Mab as she should be addressed, was traditionally ruler of the fairies. However she is sometimes depicted as a malevolent entity and not someone to be trifled with. Introduced by Faunus, the god of daydreams, Queen Mab and her entourage, (the Children of Blast) walked amongst the audience before talking amongst themselves. Written, directed and performed by Rosie Jones, with additional performances by Ayesha Tansey, Flavia Betram, Rebecca Kenny and Duncan Robertson, this piece was ‘theatrical’ in the best sense of the world. Using ornate attire, make-up and archaic prose, the piece was heavy on ‘mood’ and evoked the ‘Weird Sisters’ archetype present in Macbeth.

A similarly ethereal piece, Dreamtime Before Banishment featured Rebecca Kenny again and Kathryn Smith who sang, and was accompanied by musicians Liz Marcus and Zoe McClean. Inspired by the aria I Am Laid in Earth from Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas, the theme of grief was explored, as well and the ceremonial washing with water – traditionally the conduit between world of the living and the dead.

This wasn’t the only piece that share a collaboration between musicians and performers. The final piece of the evening (The Fields) featured Caroline Forrest and Katie Andrews navigating their way via dance through a ‘forest’ of balloons. These balloons complemented the balloons that hung from the ceiling, which in turn reminded me of the arrangement of lights in Nick Payne’s Constellations, that lit up whenever there was some deviation in the timeline.

As mentioned before, the evening had ‘postmodern’ pieces, as well those fell within the ‘Arcadian’ bracket. The first of these was a multimedia piece that was created and performed by Paula Varjack. Titled Show Me The Money, Varjack through interviews with other actors and self-disclosure explored the practicalities of being a theatre-maker in these austere times and how it defines perception of oneself. This segment was only a taster for what is hoped to be a full-length show later this year. However, on the strength of what was shown, it struck a deep chord with everyone. Not since Bryony Kimmings’ disclosure of her finances last year has a topic generated such interest and a willingness from others to share and compare experiences. This piece was certainly one of my personal highlights of the evening and fingers crossed, enough money will be raised via grants or elsewhere so a full-length version can go to Edinburgh.

The second 'postmodern' piece of the evening was Georgie Jones’ A Poem. Recalling a childhood memory of playtime that went awry, Jones’ matter-of-fact delivery made the events described all the more poignant and reminded me of similar events in Morgan Lloyd Malcom’s The Wasp. However, once A Poem was read, Jones went around the audience and gave specific jobs for people to do for its second performance. These included tasks such as speaking to the audience, holding up signs or addressing the other impromptu ‘stagehands’. Personally I found the stripped down version of A Poem had more power, though seeing A Poem performed with its array of people made one think about the logistics of this and where/when it would be appropriate in other shows, which is what it was meant to do.

To conclude, the one thing I’ll take from this year’s Tell Tales is the way the pieces (especially the music and dance) made me feel as opposed to what I ‘thought’ about them (certainly a new thing for me). With the emphasis on the dreamlike state between the waking world and the imagination, the spirit of the evening couldn’t be more fitting for the summer if Bottom and Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream turned up as well.

Tell Tales 2015 ran from 13-15 March 2015

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