The team behind Storytelling... in front of their magical blanket fortEmma Chandler with permission for Varsity

Amidst the chaos of this year’s May Week, the ADC’s Larkum Studio found itself transformed into a realm of wonder as magical and elaborate as any May Ball. Complete with twinkling fairy lights and swirls of intertwined patterned fabrics, Kit Burley designed a stunning blanket fort, a magician’s den for Storytelling at the ADC. Five performers shared stories they’d written themselves, accompanied by Tungsten Tang on the fiddle, to create an atmosphere of wonder as the audience was transported to a world of fantasy and splendour.

“The audience was transported to a world of fantasy and splendour”

Alongside Burley’s set design, Aimee Hallsworth’s costumes of corsets and rose vines helped to enhance the atmosphere of mysticism and wonder-to-come. The sound of fans whirring in the background swiftly slipped into the subconscious, as with a sage grin, Imogen Woods-Wilford, playing Danu The Guide, began the adventure. Woods-Wilford’s performance grew into a wonderful amalgamation of iconic sprite-like figures such as Ariel or Puck; the fluidity of her movements in particular aided this, practically allowing the audience to see wisps of magic floating through her fingertips as she spoke. Danu introduced the other storytellers, setting the adventure off on a promising start.

Fred Upton, Leo Kang, Thea Fennell and Amy Brian were all intensely captivating. Brian’s performance as Brigid was particularly moving as she demonstrated complete mastery of pace, emotive intent and movement in her performance, made more powerful through her tale’s contrast to Fennell’s exuberant tale of dragons and compassion. Upton’s take on Loki grappled with the familiar Nordic god (popularised by Marvel) and through his fully-embodied performance, unapologetic in its mythological accuracy, made his tale of the god accessible and entertaining. Stan Hunt’s decision to have a guide allowed for perfect transitions between the varied emotive intentions of each story. What made these performances even more impressive was that all the stories told were written by their respective performers! Fennell’s mastery of rhyme was particularly impressive, feeling entirely authentic and lending a melodic flow to her tale. Kang and Brian’s stories, respectively set in Korea and Ireland, powerfully blended fantasy and reality. Despite the interjection of demonic little sisters and fae, the humanity at the core of their stories - of family and feeling like an outsider - made their works feel universal.

“You can’t help but wonder if the team all actually had a little bit of magic to sprinkle into the show”

In certain moments, the lack of space afforded to the actors was frustrating as their movements felt constrained and robotic, yet the majority of the time Hunt’s direction mitigated this cleverly through the use of levels and the performer’s dynamic voices. Equally, whilst the use of fiddle in the opening of the show aided the transition into the fantastical and was played wonderfully, its interspersion between each story sometimes felt it was missing an overarching melodic line (perhaps due to its improvisatory nature), and was a little obtrusive to the show’s flow; a fuller band or more constant underscoring might have lessened this. All the actors remained in character throughout the show with dazzling commitment, however in the stillness of certain tales (particularly Upton’s and Brian’s), improvised movements by the rest of the cast, whilst dynamic and perfectly matched to their created characters, drew attention away from the storytellers speaking.


Mountain View

Moments of enchantment in 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream'

Overall, the creation of such a captivating show, cohesive not only in its story but across all production and technical elements in an exam term should have been impossible, so much so that you can’t help but wonder if the team all actually had a little bit of magic to sprinkle into the show. One thing is for certain, in Storytelling..., the Larkum Studio was transformed into a realm of wonder and delight, a perfect fireside experience… and no, not just because of the heat!

Storytelling at the ADC played at the Larkum Studio from Thursday 22nd to Friday 23rd June, 8pm, 2023