Angella Marzola-Browne spends a captivating night reviewing a student-written showcase of live performance storytelling in Tales of Our World.
The Director’s Note on the brochure for Tales of Our World discusses the ‘compelling range of narrative voices’ portrayed in the performances, and that was certainly true of the production. Featuring nine stories ranging from the times of Medieval kings, the awkwardness of Year Six discos, and the turmoil of our modern political era, the breadth of topics did not overshadow the one true link between each piece: the amazingly talented cast, each of whom individually demanded attention with their performances.
The production itself was stripped back, with the cast using only necessary props and costumes with minimal detail. Lighting was often the only other visual aspect in each piece. This complimented the storytelling theme by guiding the audience to focus on the actor and their words rather than distracting their attention with an influx of objects. Most of the audience was seated on the floor, with blankets provided for comfort. This, combined with the use of central staging, was reminiscent of listening to a grandparent tell a story, ensuring that we were completely focused on the stage. The staging helped fully immerse the audience in the stories, with the cast members making direct eye contact and rushing around to introduce themselves.
The storytelling began with the fable-like ‘The Pageboy and the Amulet’. The fairy-tale tone of this story made for a perfect opener, particularly when acted with such enthusiasm. The following performances were hilarious, making use of creative lighting and the circular staging to incorporate the audience members, who became both gawking prepubescents and extended family members. Comedy was then swapped in favour of contemplation in ‘Jazz’, where the tranquil drum of rain mixed with the soothing jazz piano left the audience silent, caught up in pensive thoughts. The final performance before the interval was ‘The Dreamcatcher’, which was truly mesmerising, embracing harrowing themes. The clarity and eloquence with which Catherine Potter spoke the powerful words of Madison Hauser left the audience hanging on her every word. In this scene, however, the inclusion of props was unnecessary; having a dreamcatcher descend from the ceiling and a sunflower dropped onto the stage floor distracted from the lyrical quality of the monologue.
After the interval, ‘Night’s Haven’ discussed the eternity of three in the morning, continuing the show’s descent into darker material with its descriptions of the anxieties and fears that come with a new relationship. This was followed by ‘Lesson Number One’, a short piece that nevertheless had a palpable impact on the audience, resonating with the current issues surrounding gun laws. The political theme continued with ‘This Isn’t About You’, which incorporated lighting and sound effects, and culminated in a shock ending that left the audience reeling. ‘Hung Love’ portrayed a modern tragedy, skipping between the past and present with such skill that it was easy to visualise the scene in a film. This piece focused on the topic of suicide, making it no mean feat for Charmain Au-Yeung to flip through such an array of emotions in so short a time, captivating the audience.
The night ended with a final story following from the first piece. This cyclical element truly drew the night to a close, ending the series of vignettes and imbuing myself and the rest of the audience with a sense of hopeful optimism that lasted the entirety of my cold walk home.