‘Big Man’, aka Chris Bostock, invites us to travel south of the river – ‘Public transport is good…’ – with the sea on our left hand – ‘Not too close to the cliff, but fantastic views of the sea…’, where we arrive at the Manor House, Easington. He segues, seamlessly, into the tale of a white hare, who escapes the Lord of the manor’s hunt, accompanying himself of small djembe. Now, I wonder, how long has it taken him to practise keeping the narrative moving, whilst changing the tempo and dynamics of the hoof beats, on his drum? Looks easy, but it isn’t.
The Storytellers’ Band sit behind, waiting their cues to embellish Chris’s stories. I’m loving the retelling of The Firebird from Russia, where the band uses a melody in the Phrygian mode: Stu playing clarinet, Ken on accordion and Fi on fiddle. I find myself building up expectation, like a child, to the Tzar’s threatening refrain to the hapless horseman; Chris swelling his body with self-importance, his hands wide and demanding, and the band filling the room with Eastern sounds. We are delighted when the underdog wins out – of course! The musicians give us a wedding dress song to complete the tale, Ken now on cello, Stu on mandolin and Fi singing and fiddling.
It occurs to me, when we laugh at the unexpected punchline of Chris’s short story about a cow, that all those people at comedy venues would love this evening: the retelling of stories, not all funny, of course, but holding us enthralled by taking us around the world in our minds. Such audiences are used to making their own images. They should be here!
Malcolm Green takes the stage to tell – complete with bird calls! – an Inuit puffin tale with the lasting image of the fisherman being thrown into the air by the puffin colony ‘playing toss the blanket’, the birds reinforcing the interdependency of man and bird. It’s also the story of a father giving his son his independence.
Back to the UK, to Scotland, the story of a childless couple at the coast. It’s the details we’re given; how the fisherwoman wraps the leather apron and shawl around her body to go and collect the seaweed. As an aside, ‘It’s good for composting, by the way.’ We are drawn into the storm over the inlet by the accordion’s shifting wave harmonies and strings’ lashing rain and spray. I watch the audience lean forward to catch Chris’s voice, now hardly audible, as he describes the unfolding scene.
It’s the intimacy of such an evening, the sharing of each unique retelling and the music really completes our enjoyment.