Storyteller, Storyteller

Fri 7th – Sun 30th August 2015

reviews

Ed Grimble

at 15:20 on 17th Aug 2015

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Children, on the whole, have terrifically short attention spans. They’re notorious for it. As such, children's theatre hinges on an ability to keep the rascals captivated and enthralled for an extended period of time. If a child is bored, he or she will not hesitate to let you know about it. Energy is the order of the day, and actors Ashley Bates and Luke Pitman are not certainly not lacking in it in Storyteller, Storyteller

Two identically dressed storytellers arrive on stage intent on wowing the audience with their narrative charms. However, disaster and slapstick farce ensue when each proclaims himself the Storyteller. What follows feels somewhat like a collection of all of the scenes containing the two Dromios from The Comedy of Errors rammed together in one blistering display of tomfoolery. History has proved that there is always demand for a good farce, and the fact that the Waverley Arches resonate with the haughty chuckles of parents as well as the shrill giggles of their charges shows that this is still true.

For the most part, the children loved the show. They roared with laughter as Pitman and Bates inflicted upon each other mild injury with various ridiculous implements of mischief: bamboo pole, a cassette tape, and a fishing rod to name but a few. Despite their evident enjoyment of much of the show, however, there were some crucial moments where Storyteller, Storyteller certainly fell short of the standards needed to suitably entertain a throng of hungry children, ravenous for hilarity.

Both characters spoke in mindless gibberish for the much of the performance, punctuated by only semblances of actual English dialogue. Although, on the one hand, this had the positive effect of focussing the children’s attention on what was physically happening so as to not overexert their target audience, this directorial decision did to an extent underestimate the intellectual demands of said children. In response to one such episode of inane babbling, the child sat beside me uttered quite confidently, “This is for silly people”. This occurred just before I was struck in the face by a balloon wielded by a marauding child who was tearing maniacally up and down the aisle.

Storyteller, Storyteller then, was an admirable attempt at one of the most difficult tasks in entertainment: catering to the whimsical demands of children. For their stamina and perseverance, as well as dramatic inventiveness, both Bates and Pitman should be commended. However, it did at times perhaps underestimate the degree to which a child could enjoy something more than simply seeing a man slapped in the face by a live fish.

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Genevieve Cox

at 15:31 on 17th Aug 2015

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Storyteller, Storytellers is a two-man, comedic children’s show, devised and performed by Ashley Bates and Luke Pitman, using both physical theatre and ‘gibberish’ language of nonsense to communicate a fun yet ultimately silly performance for an awaiting young audience.

Childish humour dominated the two central methods of communication used to conduct this performance: both visual and audio. Combining farcical fun, mime, and exaggerated facial expressions, silly noises of both sound effects and a comic gibberish of their own, these two actors entranced their child audience and welcomed them into a fantasy world of their own indulgence.

Their acting was energetic and, with unarguably boundless enthusiasm, they performed in a fun yet professional manner, inviting children to indulge and enjoy themselves along with them. Simple props supported their storytelling act. Bamboo poles became part of elaborate balancing acts and a single blue sheet became the sea. Basic costumes of multi-coloured patchwork pyjama-style outfits added to the fun atmosphere, as did quirky background music and sound effects.

Yet, although many children did enjoy its frivolity, others found it overly frivolous and experienced irritation and frustration at its somewhat patronising attempts at humour and farce. The performance did border on ridiculous and risked being just too stupid. The gibberish, mime, facial expressions and themes of each individual sketch soon became repetitive, unrealistic and boring. Some children became fed-up by the end claiming that “this is stupid”. This limited the performance’s overall success, and this problem was exacerbated by its prolonged length.

Despite the target audience of the show being children much younger than myself, there did appear to be appeal and enjoyment by older audience participants as well, as many parents appeared to find certain aspects amusing whilst others alternatively enjoyed watching the entertainment of their own children.

Therefore, this production did, on the whole, fulfil its genre of childhood entertainment and effectively played-out the roles of a traditional storyteller in an innovative and fun way.

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