“Rhyme, story, and song were threaded delightfully together, the result being an immersive, joyful, and tremendously fun hour of gentle adventure.”
📍 Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh
📅 Sunday, May 7, 2023
🕖 Running time: 1 hour Julia Munrow, John Sampson, Pete Baynes
👥 Featuring: Stuart McHardy
🎂 Parental Discretion
🎭 Wheelchair Accessible Venue, Wheelchair Accessible Toilets, Audio Induction Loop
So far as I’m aware, there’s no defined genre which quite captures the wondrous happenings associated with Into the Woods: in the footsteps of Thomas the Rhymer. Perhaps ‘Live action Balladeering’ just about captures the idea.
Glamorously frocked narrator, Julia Murrow might be conductress of the tale-telling but not without help from the entire audience. Down onto stage volunteers of all ages were summoned, some to play Thomas, others his elf-fatale the Fairy Queen whilst the stalls were bestowed with branches to play the forest.
This story, however, would not be told with rhyme and action, but music too. This thanks to puckish composer and multi-instrumentalist John Sampson ably assisted by a string strumming, merrily singing Pete Baynes. Rhyme, story, and song were threaded delightfully together, the result being an immersive, joyful, and tremendously fun hour of gentle adventure.
There’s so much to admire in the ambition and execution of this event, a true blending of traditional art forms and a reminder that the ceilidh was born as a social gathering dominated by storytelling, music and song – but not dancing. There’s a particular magic born of the melding of tale-telling and music only glimpsed in each individually. That spell weaving was in full effect for an hour, charming young and old alike.
It must be said that the three performers/creators were absolutely fantastic, and quite audacious. After all, audience participation is a parlous undertaking at the best of times, and that’s when you’re not orchestrating a harmonised crowd choir, and coaching the unprepared to take on theatrical parts. Murrow has just the right, rich voice, and sense of the dramatic to tell a grand myth. Sampson’s immense talent, and delight in sharing his menage of unusual instruments is a delight. Baynes channels something of Roy Kinnear’s dry but generous merriment to complete the trio.
Now, no fairy tale is complete without a walk through the dark or weird side, and this was to be no exception. Rivers of blood, and laments for the double-edged gifts of the good neighbours were to be negotiated before the happy-ish ending. There were even artefacts involved, created specially by local sculptor Anna Caro, not least a golden apple. As we all know, one should never accept apples from strangers, particularly those with pointy ears.
More of this please, more performance art for the young, more collaborations between musicians are storytellers. In next year’s Tradfest, on top of the fantastically talented line-up, The QR thinks more visible cross-pollination between visiting musicians and storytellers could yield the most splendid of fruit.