Giles Abbott at The Last Tuesday Society

giLES abbot

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.

WIGS 5/5

 

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Interview with Dead Lads

We caught up with Manchester based poetry group ‘Dead Lads’ about their first dramatic piece ‘Nuclear Roomates’. We posed questions to Lenni, Jasmine and their Director for this piece, Jack. Here are their responses.

GW: Can you tell me about ‘Dead Lads’?

Jasmine: We started Dead Lads for this play. Me and Lenni have collaborated quite a bit before on poetry fests and performance poetry things like that, so we thought we wanted to create a full hour show. We weren’t really sure what form it would take at that point. So we created ‘Dead Lads’ and we’re going to keep doing stuff under that title – its just collaborative work between the two of us.

GW: When did you two start writing poetry?

Lenni: We’ve both been writing poetry for quite a few years, but we’ve been writing together since we met at uni in 2011/12.

Jasmine: Then we met Jack about a year ago. When we realised the project was going in the theatre direction, we brought him on board to help us hone the details.

GW: Can you tell me a bit about the show itself ?

Jack: Ye. So bluntly, ‘Nuclear Roomates’ centres on two women ‘Salter & Riggs’ who are holed up in a small tattered house in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, trying desperately to survive. We never really see them leave the house and there’s a malevolent presence outside that keeps tapping on the window. It’s them trying to hold together a semblance of normalacy and talk about what bothers them. It’s entirely focused on their character dynamic and their fear of getting ripped apart by this foreboding presence outside.

GW: Is the whole thing performed as poetry or as prose?

Jasmine: We started off by writing a lot of full poems, but as the narrative emerged from it, a lot of it became dialogue. There’s dialogue, there’s poetic dialogue and then there’s poetry. The play goes between all three. We use poetry at the more intense moments. Then we also have some more naturalistic dialogue in there. It’s quite fluid.

Jack: Coming from the perspective of not being in the show or being part of the writing process, it’s not distinguished by, this is dialogue, this is poem, it all just blends together into this very heightened very beautiful language, that carries you through.

GW: What was the inspiration for this piece?

Lenni: Someone offered us a guest slot to do poetry together and we thought lets write something brand new especially for it, maybe with a narrative. It was a 15 minute guest slot, so we thought we would write something that was 15 minutes long. Then we decided we wanted it to be about the apocalypse. It’s just fun to write about. Jasmine is well up on nuclear apocalypses. That was your dissertation wasn’t it?

Jasmine: Ye, I wrote my dissertation on nuclear apocalypses, so I know a lot of the grisly details of what could happen. Another part of it, was we wanted to write female characters that were really interesting and weird, not necessarily strong characters, but also not necessarily two-dimensional characters. We wanted to write good female characters for stage. I think thats quite difficult to do, historically they are under-represented.

GW: There is a line in your play about ‘womb-eating’ ???

They all laugh.

Jasmine: That’s true! Jack you tweeted that spoiler!

Jack: I did. It comes towards the end. This is what’s exciting about the dialogue. All of this wasn’t in there originally. The dialogue is maybe some of the most exciting stuff. At the end, there’s a big argument between the two of them. In directing it, I got the sense that they probably have this exact same argument every day. But one of the common threats they throw at each other is about eating each other, obviosuly because they are in the apocalypse. There’s lots of grisly details. So there’s “I would eat your eyes first”…

Lenni: I scream that. Jasmine puts her hands on my belly in a really creepy way and says “I would kill you without a moments thought and be boiling you up within the hour!” and I just scream “I WOULD EAT YOUR EYES FIRST!”

Jack: And then Jasmine threatens womb-eating.

Jasmine: With the womb, there is actually a reason for that. The focus is on women in the condition of the apocolypse. While we were writing it, we were thinking about a lot of women’s choices. Here, the choice to have children is lost. They can’t really. It’s certanly not any kind of condition that you would want to have children in. The point of the argument is they are trying to rile each other up and dig really deep – so the womb eating line – it’s particularly poignant. It’s quite grisly and horrible.

Jack: “Useless womb” you say don’t you.

Jasmine: Ye I call it her useless womb. That gets a good audience reaction.

GW: Hypothetically, confronted with a nuclear fallout and a descent into a post-apocolyptic world, of the three of you, who would survive the longest?

Jasmine: Oh boy!

Lenni: I’ve been thinking about this for a while becuase I have a friend who I’ve had arguments about this before. And she always says “Wouldn’t you even try and survive Lenni?” and I say “NO, I’d just give up.”

Jasmine: I would survive becuase these guys would just lay down and die.

GW: Well, having written a dissertation on this you should probably have the edge.

Jasmine: I feel like I would probably be pretty useless. I would try gallantly to fight people off with a spade. Ultimately I would just be eaten by someone or they’d steal my possessions.

Jack: I think me and Lenni would be eaten by you!

Jasmine: Ye, (she laughs) maybe.

GW: What’s your favourite thing about being at the Fringe?

Jack: Oh gosh! It would have to be sleeping on a floor.

They all laugh.

Jack: I don’t know. At the moment I have been seeing lots of weird things that cross over between comedy and theatre. I definitely wouldn’t be getting the chance to do that anywhere else. Stuff thats pushing at the genre, that’s what I’m interested in artistically at the moment. Just the breadth of stuff I’m able to see.

Jasmine: Seeing new exciting stuff is really good and converging with lots of other creative people, it’s really exciting.

GW: Of the things you have seen so far, what has stood out?

Lenni: Me and Jack saw two really great, quite absurd comedy acts, that drew on a lot of things and were amazing.

Jack: We saw ‘Cosmonaut’ by Ryan Good. He’s a storyteller and that was really great. It had such a nice vibe.

Lenni: Really really lovely. Really amazing audience interaction. He brings someone up onto the stage at the start and you think it might just be for a little while, but then over the course of the whole show, they build up this lovely bond.

Jack: The show becomes about their friendship which is lovely. We saw Zoe Coombs Marr’s show ‘Dave’. She’s a standup comic peforming for an hour as a horrible misogynistic man. Which is really funny, but it goes deeper than just a one note critique. It becomes this horrific dream sequence.

Jasmine: We saw Dominic Berry’s show. It’s called ‘Up Your Game: The Downfall of a Noob’. It’s a spoken word show, themed around his relationship with gaming and the things that come into play with that like masculinity and isolation. That was a really powerful spoken word hour.

Jack: He is really good poet.

GW: Cool. Ok final question, what does the future hold for ‘Dead Lads’?

Lenni: Well, for part of this show we have made some chose-your-own adventure books, set in the same world as the play.

Jasmine: It’s a little stapled pamphlet type thing. We wrote that with Jack actually. We brought him in on it. Otherwise, we are hoping to keep developing the play, because it’s really new. We want to take it around some festivals and look into how we can push it further.

GW: Well good luck with that and the rest of your performances and thank you for talking to the Ginger Wig and Strolling Man.

Jasmine: Great talking to you Ginger Wig.

If you want to see Dead Lads production Nuclear Roomates, they are on until the 30th of August at the Laughing Horse @ Moriarty (Venue 332) at 12:30pm. And its free !!!

Dickens’ Women – Miriam Margolyes

Review by Linny

This is a very entertaining 90 minutes on Dickens’ life and his female characters.  We have Mrs Gamp, Mr Bumble and Widow Corney, Miss Mowcher, Flora Finching, various timid 17-year old girls and others besides.  Margolyes is truly brilliant at bringing these characters to life.  If you love Dickens you should see this.  Only very slightly less satisfying than seeing Simon Callow do the two short stories, Dr Marigold and Mr Chops, but simply because these give you two complete narratives.

4/5 WIGS

My Elevator Days

Review by Linny

A monologue by Bengt Ahlfors brought by Svenska Teatern.

An elderly man reflects on his life.  A native of Sweden, he has always lived in Finland.

This was a fine performance by Alexander West ruminating on the very limited compass of his life both as a child and as an adult (he never married) and the strategies he has engaged in to create relationships.  Grace Kelly features as a picture of ideal womanhood;  the elevator in his apartment block stands in as a kind of bleak stage where he encountered a bully when little and which itself then becomes the object of a relationship later in his life.  In passing we have observations on casual racism and the dismal lack of sociability amongst people who live on the other sides of walls or on other floors whilst all share the same public spaces in the building.  His interaction with others in his recent past is limited to being an interloper at the funerals and weddings of strangers as well as a sex worker. This is a sad and poignant piece with its modest dramas skilfully managed by West out of the small exigencies of his character’s life.  There is a hopeful end.

3/5 WIGS

Devvo Dole Queue Hero is Free

Review by Goubba

What a scallywag Devvo is!  Devvo is doing a free show for which, quite frankly, I had higher expectations.  It was full of much of what I expected, childish crude humour and advice on the appropriate footwear for aspiring burglars. This was also interspersed with tips on how to become a millionaire. He performed three of his songs, ‘Crystal Meffin’, ‘The Boys on the Beach…’ and ‘Donny Soldier’. In general, the audience participation was weak with one audience member being completely drunk.  This turned out to be an average show with just a couple of big laughs, my favourite being his account of some BBC bigwigs asking him find a place in London for filming that looked like Doncaster… Could have had better from Devvo, or maybe this Donny Soldier has been riding on the success of one good Internet song for too long.

2/5 WIGS

The Price of Everything

Review by Ginger Wig

This was a performance lecture on how we value things. It was interesting and amusing performed by someone with very good performance skills. He told his stories in an interesting way, illustrating his points with fabricated stories, to prove to us that it was more plausible to believe a story about humans being idiots than it was them being kind and generous. Plus we got a free 1/3 of a cup of milk.

3/5 WIGS

Review by Looby Loo

I always enjoy a good story.  Daniel Bye is a good storyteller.  He discussed how we value the random acts of kindness of others.  I found the first half amusing but it appeared directionless and I always like the feeling of being in the capable hands of the actor(s) otherwise it makes me anxious.  The second half focused on Daniel’s experience of performing three acts of kindness and the results.  There was nothing that he said that surprised me, but the message of this piece is an important one.

Audience Wriggling:  this category has become difficult because of my obsession with the front row

Bows: 1

General Spot: Milk

Venue: I can’t help but think there is something depressing about watching a show in the wing of an empty church

2/5 WIGS

Letter to the Man (From the Boy)

Review by Ginger Wig

This one-man show had an interesting premise, however it did not live up to its potential. It was basically a series of poems about one man’s life, interspersed with instructions to us to write down things in our own letter to our older self.  The creator is advertised as a poetry slam reader, and I couldn’t help but think he would be better performing in that format.  Here it seemed slightly contrived, however I did like the audience participation.

2/5 WIGS

Review by Loubby Loo

I am afraid I found this show unoriginal and dull.  I really struggle watching bad theatre, I can sit through films, talks and television programmes but I cannot bear to struggle with my favourite medium, the stage.  I don’t think doing a few rhyming couplets can make you a poet.  The audience are asked to write a letter to their older selves and are asked to voice parts to the other members of the audience.  It is a good concept but was done with poor execution.  What would be much more interesting would be writing a letter to your younger self when you have the experience and the insight to actually tell them something!

1/5 WIGS