Last Sunday we made a trip east to check out a storyteller we first came across when listening to BBC Radio 4. Giles Abbott is unlike most storytellers. He has a way with words and a tone of voice that can instantly transport you deep into the heart of his story. He is also the UK’s only professional blind storyteller. Having qualified as a journalist, his life took a detour when he suddenly lost the sight in both his eyes, the sight in his right disappearing in five days and the sight in his left disappearing in four hours, 7 months later.
We joined Giles last Sunday evening at his regular monthly slot at the last Tuesday Society in the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities in east London, a museum containing everything from giant spider crabs to old fashioned adult novels. With a repertoire that contains stories from all over the world, we were treated to a selection of stories about fools that Giles chose on the spot. We heard several stories about ‘Shake Chilli’ the Indian fool, a fairytale about a fool who couldn’t see that his luck was always in front of him, and a darker story, requested by us listeners, about a king trying to understand if all his citizens were happy. There was also a tale about a adulterous wife and an aristocrat involving an exquisite mink coat.
Every word uttered was delivered with absolute purpose to tell a beautiful story. The pictures he created with his words were everything they needed to be for each tale, beautiful, charming, dark and funny. Slight shifts in accent suggested different characters throughout his storytelling, bringing us deeper into his tales.
This was one of our best experiences of professional storytelling and we will definitely return to hear Giles again. His was a voice that was cinematic. In preparing to write this article we clicked on to his website just as ‘Love and Happiness’ by Al Green started playing on our laptop. On opening Giles’ website we immediately heard him recounting a tale of battle just as Al’s beat kicked off. This random moment of synthesis was an example of how wonderful Giles’ voice was in sitting so comfortably on top of music and in doing so the tale became something completely new.
Highlight of the piece – Giles’ voice, he talked about the mink coat caressing a woman’s body as she put it on, exactly what his voice was doing to our ears.