– Allen Ginsberg, ‘Footnote to Howl’
I’ve had a bit of an overdose of performance poetry in the past year, but there is another form of literary performance that I’m curious to get more into: storytelling. On Sunday I visited the School of Storytelling for one day of the Everything Under the Sun Festival, which ran from Friday 23rd August until yesterday. The two shows I managed to see were ‘Under the African Skies’ by Duncan Mackintosh and ‘When Abel met Cain’ by Raffa Rodan. Mackintosh’ stories brought the South African grassvelds right into life in the middle of the English countryside. I studied one term of African Storytelling as part of my International Baccalaureate’s Theatre course, so I felt a strong connection to these stories. Rodan’s performance was tied to his Israeli background and mixed autobiographical fragments with adaptations of more traditional stories, and was followed by an interesting group discussion on how to use storytelling in conflict resolution, as well as a bit of analysis of the stories. Both performers were absolutely fantastic.
The reason I picked the above Ginsberg quote is that I believe – as probably do its practitioners as well – that there is something sacred about the oral tradition of storytelling. Even for people for whom all the information in the world is just a Google search away, there is a magical moment when a practiced storyteller says the words, ‘Once upon a time…’ Of course theatre, literature, cinema and TV series are storytelling of some kind, but they don’t have that same magical presence or comforting reminiscence of hearing bedtime stories as a child that a traditional storytelling performance does.
Here‘s a good link for some Southern African folktales. I’m tempted to learn one or two and give a go at some spoken word open mic event (probably one I’ll never go to again, in case it goes really badly.) For London storytelling performances, I’ve heard from several reliable sources that the Crick Crack Club is the best place to start.