The Tell Tales Review

Blue Elephant Theatre 12 – 13 April

Reviewed by Claire Roderick


The oral tradition of storytelling is alive and well (and in very safe hands) with The Tell Tales.

With the increasing popularity of audible books amongst adults, surely, it’s time for us to rekindle our love of experiencing a story being TOLD, not just read. Personally, I find audible books to be the perfect cure for insomnia, but being able to see a storyteller’s face and body language as they tell their story from memory can energise even the most mundane tale.

In my day job as an Early Years teacher, I have seen many inspiring storytellers, and many more awful ones. Telling a story to an audience is about much more than remembering the words. You need to keep an eye on your audience and adapt the story, adding or cutting as you go along to ensure they are swept along on your narrative journey. This is a lot easier to do with children – they aren’t shy or embarrassed to let you know if they aren’t interested. With adults, it’s a lot trickier to judge, but The Tell Tales are experienced and talented enough to have created a delightful show that will leave adult audiences with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Unable to have a real campfire around which to tell their stories (flipping Health and Safety!), director Minnie Wilkinson has framed the show around the Maori legend of the origin of fire, with the four storytellers passing around matches to light their candles, with a nod to master storyteller Hans Christian Anderson and the wonderful visions seen by his Little Matchgirl as each match is struck. After this shared story of fire, Diana Redgrave, Paul Andrew, Santiago Del Fosco and Marian Hoddy each share one of their own favourite stories from around the world. The stories are silly, moralistic, funny and uplifting – the sort of material you are expected to outgrow but will always have a special place in your heart. Basically, the sort of stories you’d want to tell your own children but can’t easily find in modern books. Each storyteller has their own individual style and pace, and they are all able to recover quickly from any stumbles in their unscripted stories, using some lovely one-liners to get back to the plot, and all of them allowing, and more importantly acknowledging, the audience’s reactions.

The final story sums up the whole mission of The Tell Tales – that stories are meant to be told, shared and passed on, evolving and growing with every retelling, to young and old alike. The pure simplicity and joy of sharing these stories together is simply wonderful, breathing fresh new life into the tradition of oral storytelling. Here’s hoping we see more of The Tell Tales soon.

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