ED2015 Children's Shows ED2015 Interviews ED2015 Week1 Edition

Adam Forde: Storytellers face off on the family fringe

By | Published on Saturday 15 August 2015

Grimms Tales

Story Pocket Theatre charmed their debut Fringe last year with their award-winning production of ‘Arabian Nights’. This year they return with not one, not two, but three shows in the children’s programme.
‘Arabian Nights’ is back, while the company also put their spin on all things Grimm. And then, in a quirky twist, the storytellers who lead both those shows meet head to head in their third show ‘Storyteller, Storyteller’. We spoke to the company’s writer and co-director Adam Forde to find out more.

CC: You have three shows at the Festival this year, so let’s deal with each in turn. First of all you are bringing back the award winning ‘Arabian Nights’. For the uninitiated, talk us through that show. Has it evolved since last year at all?
AF: ‘Arabian Nights’ is a pretty hectic dash through four stories, but at the heart of the show is the story of Sheherazade and the King Shahryar. The King plans to execute each new wife every day to prevent them betraying him, but Sheherazade tells him stories and slowly softens his heart. The four stories are all very funny, but in different ways – slapstick, song, puppetry and some lovely visual comedy. The show has been tweaked a little but we have kept the same cast together, they are such a tight team and have embraced any small changes. We’re very proud of it.

CC: That was your debut show at last year’s Festival, and I think it’s fair to say you received much acclaim. I take it you had a good Fringe?
AF: Last year was a fantastic experience for the company. We got lovely reviews across the board and of course won the Primary Times Children’s Choice Award, which was very special for such a new company. It really helped put the company on the map and so we were confident about bringing three shows up this year.

CC: Have you been performing ‘Arabian Nights’ ever since?
AF: We’ve been touring all over the place since last year’s Fringe, including at the Royal Festival Hall in May as part of the Alchemy Festival – that was a very exciting experience. We’ve visited some lovely theatres across the country, and we also visited Poland for a week of shows in Warsaw and in September we will be performing in Dubai. It’s been a great year for us.

CC: Let’s move onto the new shows. What can we expect from ‘A Pocketful Of Grimms’?
AF: ‘A Pocketful Of Grimms’ was a natural progression from ‘Arabian Nights’. Sheherazade’s stories are a timeless collection and the Grimm Brothers are the same. We tell five stories with a rather lovely prologue and epilogue. As with ‘Arabian Nights’, we start with a storyteller who helps the cast create the stories, and all of the magic and wonder that comes from such well known fairy tales. There is plenty of silliness but also a healthy dash of romance, adventure and a smattering of the weird. But, once again, it’s storytelling which drives everything we do.

CC: It seems you like working with classic stories. What are the pros and cons of this approach?
AF: Working with the classics is a joy – they are such enduring stories. With Grimms we looked at hundreds of the stories to choose the right balance for our show. So many are very well known but only in their modern form. With those we’ve chosen, we’ve gone back to the originals and drawn from them, rather than the more modern versions. For instance, ‘Lily And The Lion’ is recognisable as ‘Beauty And The Beast’, but there is a lot more to it than the version we know today.

Also, storytellers of the Grimms’ era were far less worried about exposing the children to slightly macabre stories, and many of audiences have been surprised and delighted by the ending of ‘Rumpelstiltskin’. I guess the only drawback to working on these classics is that there are so many to choose from. We could do a dozen sequels of each show and still not have reached half way down the list of stories. And, in the case of Grimms, a lot of companies tackle those stories. We’d like to think that our approach is slightly different and our audiences so far have been saying some lovely things.

CC: You’re promising some of the Brothers Grimm’s less well known stories. What do they include?
AF: One of my favourite stories as a child was ‘The Golden Goose’, but it doesn’t have the same popularity as way back then. So we’ve put that in – it’s very silly and there is a big surprise in store for one or two audience members. We’re also telling the story of ‘The Bird, The Mouse And The Sausage’ which is short and very silly. And as I said, ’Lilly And The Lion’ will be recognised as ‘Beauty And The Beast’, but the second part of the story is very rarely told.

CC: And let’s come to ‘Storyteller, Storyteller’. This seems a little different to the other two. How does it work?
AF: Each of our shows has a storyteller to guide the audience and the rest of the cast. Each knows he is the only storyteller, but we wondered what might happen if they met. And so that’s what ‘Storyteller, Storyteller’ is about. The two meet on neutral ground and then try and outdo one another. It’s a lovely very funny session of clowning that I think will delight anyone with a sense of humour. I laugh like a drain every time we run through it.

CC: It’s a great idea! How did it evolve into a standalone show?
AF: Well, once we came up with the meeting of the storytellers, it was simply a case of playing with lots of ideas and gradually the show emerged. It’s been a lovely collaboration between our storytellers – Ashley Bates from ‘Grimms’ and Luke Pitman from ‘Arabian Nights’, and my co-director Jules Black.

CC: You’ve got two shows at Gilded Balloon this year, and one in the Freestival. Why did you decide to go that route?
AF: Although our shows are simple and beautiful, we do try to create high production values. Having performed at Gilded Balloon last year we were very keen to return. It’s such a great venue and brilliantly run. They were also happy to have us back and very encouraging about the Grimms show. Taking ‘Storyteller, Storyteller’ to Freestival was a decision based a little bit on cost, but mostly because in the future we’d like it to play in a wide variety of small venues and on the streets. We thought it would be a great way to showcase the idea of the show. It can be played in a library or a car park – given a little traffic control! – and at festivals across the UK that have theatre and children’s tents. I think it was the informality of the free-show-fringe ethos that appealed to us for this show. It’s pretty different to our other shows.

CC: And how have you been preparing for a three show Fringe?
AF: Lots of Berocca! It’s actually been a frantic preparation period. Rehearsing two new shows while the other one was still playing dates around the country is logistically not easy. We have a great team though and so it hasn’t felt too bad. Now we’re here and the shows are up and running we’re starting to relax a little bit – though not too much! – and getting to enjoy the Festival.

‘Arabian Nights’ and ‘A Pocketful Of Grimms’ were performed at Gilded Balloon, and ‘Storyteller Storyteller’ as part of the Freestival, at Edinburgh Festival 2015.

LINKS: storypockettheatre.co.uk