WhatsOnStage Logo

Five Recommended ... Fringe Storytelling Shows

WhatsOnStage logo
With the Fringe coming to a close on Monday, Whatsonstage.com looks at some of the top raconteurs at this year’s festival (minus Daniel Kitson - though we love him too). From Beckett to shadow puppets, here’s what to see (or what you should have seen) if you’re in the mood for a story.

1. Ernest & the Pale Moon

This dark tale is a long-form narrative in the style of the company’s hugely successful Terrible Infants tales. However, this most certainly is not for children. With less novelty visual aids than their eponymous show, Ernest and the Pale Moon is a rare example of terrifying theatre that’s interested in far more than a cheap spook. A world simultaneously haunting and beautiful is created so precisely that the audience cannot help being transported into their warped fairy tale. Unfortunately, with only two performances at this year’s festival, Ernest and the Pale Moon has now left the festival, but with Terrible Infants playing until the end, you still have time to be enchanted by the dons of storytelling, Les Enfants Terrible. Pleasance Courtyard, 23-29 August at 14.00

2. Fitrovia Radio Hour

Categorising themselves as comedy might be a little misleading, but whatever label is put on it, this is one of the most pleasurable hours to be spent at the Fringe. And, if it’s stories you’re after then you get your money’s worth, with three tales (one masterfully told in under four minutes) packed into this effortlessly slick show. Placed in the role of a 1920s live radio audience, not only are the audience regaled by the madcap stories (like “The Man Who Was Ten Minutes Late”) themselves, but you have the joy of witnessing the constant role-swapping, sound effect-making and general “offstage” japery – a conceit that also exposes the true talent of this suave company. Underbelly, 5-29 August at 15.40

3. First Love

Who knew Beckett could be so accessible? Well, probably those of you who came to see Conor Lovett’s endearing and insightful performance of this early Beckett novella. Together with director Judy Hegarty, the pair have become bastions of Beckett’s prose, sharing their passion with audiences all over the world. And when Lovett performs this brilliantly witty and, at times acutely moving, story, you can see why so many people believe this to be the best way to experience Beckett’s stories. It’s certainly the easiest. Rather than struggling through a meandering written narrative, the audience is given the weight and significance of each tangent, each unfinished sentence until there in front of you is the finished product. Pleasance Courtyard, 4-25 August at 17.30

4. Sammy J

Comedians should be good storytellers, but rarely are their stories as personal and engaging as those of Sammy J. This man does something unusual for a comedian in presenting himself as an affable, non-judgmental and fairly sensitive young guy. For stand-ups who feel you need to be rude, crude and abrasive, take note. Sammy J’s stories engage the audience more than most stand-ups purely because you feel invested in him as a person. When he tells you about the trick he got up to on bus when he was 17, it feels as if he’s talking to a room full of his mates. And when he tells you about the morning after his worryingly inebriated night at the Fringe last year, you recoil in horror (amidst the laughter) because that relationship has been established. If you want to befriend your storyteller, this is the show for you! Underbelly, 5-29 August at 21.50

5. Sticks, Stones, Broken Bones

Perhaps the most controversial choice of the five, this Canadian shadow-puppeteer doesn’t tell stories as much as create characters. However, so successful are his characters that these vignettes become snapshots of larger narratives. Through incredibly inventive and innovative means, Jeff Achtem brings an old couple playing chess, a karate sensei and a host of other characters to life. From household items like mops, shoes and pencils, Achtem starts off making shadow puppeteering look pretty simple. But as he contorts his body to portray two characters with heads, bodies and hands, you realise otherwise. Some people hear “shadow puppets” and run a mile, but this show can be appreciated by everyone – children and adult cynics alike. Underbelly, 5-29 August at 14.00

- Tom Williams


Tagged in this Story