A few days ago, we went to go visit the Sheffield Storyforge, a storytelling night run by the gifted Edinburgh Fringe performer Tim Ralphs. Although the room became somewhat crowded (a testament to the night’s popularity) we found seats and watched as storytellers and poets got up to perform short pieces before the first break, after which it was time for the main event: Tim Ralph’s own telling of ‘Can the Mountain love the Sea?’ At the very beginning there was fire and ice and a single man stood in front of us, and then the words began to build, with not a rich word wasted, weaving us the audience into sitting amongst the norse gods in the halls of Asgard, taking us inside a beautiful tale of love, sacrifice and compromise.
We were quite sad when it ended, mirroring the saga structure by using imagery and words from the very beginning of the performance, which now had more depth and remembrance attached to them. We left feeling very entertained indeed, having witnessed several fine storytellers demonstrating their craft.
Yes it was a night of norse myth, something that I know well, and so you might say that I’m biased and in favour of any retelling. But you might also say that I’m more critical of material that I know and love being re-imagined and performed live, a single storyteller becoming a cast of characters through face and voice and pose, even becoming a very convincing goat. If you’d like to know why the goat, it involved a piece of rope and some testicles; for the rest you’ll just have to go see the performance for yourself.
So, my questions to you are: is storytelling an art that you would like to learn to perform some of your own work? Does reading your work out loud give you a better sense of setting and character? If someone else reads your work out loud, does it give you the same picture as when you wrote it? Would you go to an open mic storytelling night and perform?