Horror Theatre

Gravest Fears – Theatre Review- University of Sheffield (29 Oct 23)

We are off to see Nunkie Productions ( touring show of “Gravest Fears” as part of their M R James Project, spreading ghost stories through the land; those wonderous things that thankfully don’t ever die. The show is in association with the Enable Us Project at the University of Sheffield ( which has been showing some excellent shows as part of it’s programme.

Our return to the University of Sheffield Drama Studio is a suitable one for this show as the venue isn’t too much of a behemoth, open space that could (without modification) leave you feeling on the outside. This is a contained show that is helped by you feeling you are in the room with the narrator as if in modest urban townhouse.

Gravest Fears is a show structured around two stories from M R James which are narrated by Robert Lloyd Parry. Parry looks the part and has considerable pedigree in this department having playing him for Mark Gatiss’ BBC2 documentary and having performer and reported on across teh United States. As he sits in the chair he has the feeling of a storyteller comfortable in his own domain, yet portrayals the slight unease at the subjects of the stories well. He pour his spirits next to his table festooned with picture frames and other paraphenalia of a man of antiquary and delivers the stories true to that of a seasoned storyteller, not just someone reading from a page. There is a light the actor and the table, and little else needed here; the listener has to imagine the goings on much like they were reading the book themselves.

The first story is “The Stalls of Barchester”. Parry here is performing as the scholar Dr Black who is looking through an old diary and other assorted pieces from Dr Haynes, an Archdeacon who died at the Barchester Cathedral approximately 50 years ago (to the early 1800s). Once the evidence starts getting read, the reconstruction of events begins and what initially seems like the unlucky death of a previous Archdeacon, becomes something with a much creepier undertone.

Firstly, Parry certainly suits the part. “The Stalls of Barchester” is a story that in particular that highlights M R James’ scholarly interests and his family involvement in the church setting. Parry brings this element to the fore in his characterisation with his quiet enthusiasm for finding the 1814 records and a kind of driving mix of agnosticism of circumstance and the academic air of someone who wants to study the phenomena in front of their eyes and apply reason. The actor also carries the slightly dry love of the details, facts and biblical references you would expect to be close to M R James. The strength of this story for us is the little elements that hint at a pervading folk horror, the memories in our environment (here the Hanging Tree and intentions of the wood carver). The notion that one’s own moral failings causes Dr Haynes to be at the mercy of these strange circumstances is interesting and reminds a lot of the morality at the centre of fairy tales and the Old Testament.

Next there is “An Episode of Cathedral History”. This story looks at a mysterious tomb that is discovered in the church in the background to a plot where the Archdeacon Burscrough is forcing through renovation to Southminster Cathedral in line with a Gothic Revival style. This one shows the range of Parry as he inhabits the characters of the everyday verger (Mr Worby) both as his adult self and as a child getting up to mischief (and seeing more than he should) as well as a rather bullheaded, pompous Archdeadon Burscrough and a historian husband-wife team that go to write up the progress of the renovation. Parry gets into the spirit of things and lingers quite well in the right places such as where we peer into a coffin, look in the darkness or feel the pure disbelief of Worby’s father at what is seen. This story is the more pacy and immediate of the two.

It is a good idea to arrange the stories in this fashion. The “Stalls of Barchester” is like a details-heavy reflection of M R James mind and life with it already happening and the main character investigating like M R James himself looking into old literary sources. The second story is you discovering things as they enfold, a larger set of characters, and plenty to energise the audience as the tension grows; it is effective being after the intermission.

In summary, this performance brings to mind exactly the atmosphere and method of delivery that M R James would have intended and desired. It does not have the flash of elaborate set-pieces or technology, multiple actors or extensive attempts to rework the content in new ways; but it doesn’t need to. To say it is simply telling a story isn’t really doing it justice. It’s focus on the narrator allows the audience to imagine with their inner eye the horror, and Parry’s role as the gatekeeper to this old time horror on this wet and cold night is the perfect one.

Classic Horror Theatre

Haunted – “Influential horror stories dug up and made fresh” – The University of Sheffield Drama Studio (1st April 2023)

When it comes to yarn spinning the best type (in our opinion) is, quite explicitely, the one involving reading from a book or telling a grand tale. Knitting a jumper seems rather complicated and in folklore so many bad things seem to happen when you start spinning that wheel. That being said there is that familiarity in a favourite jumper, especially the one that appears after seemingly doing commando-ops in the bottom of your clothes drawer. In a strange way this comfort is rather like that of classic ghost stories, especially when their form and idea is respun in stories of the modern day.

Made in conjunction with The Book of Darkness and Light/LittleMighty/Harrogate Theatre, penned and performed by Adam Z. Robinson, and showcased as part of Enable US (which joyfully brings “New professional performances” to the old Baptist setting) “Haunted” is a play directed by Dick Bonham which we recently saw that showcased a performance of classic stories “The Upper Berth” (F. Marion Crawford, 1894) and “The Monkey’s Paw” (W.W Jacobs, 1902).

The Monkey’s Paw itself is close to the consciousness with such recent adaptations as The Simpsons, and (our personal favourite) Inside Number Nine, so watching a seed of these ideas being played back is a treat meaning that “Haunted” occupies a space which hits the sweet spot in the mind where your favourite spooky feelings dwell.

It all starts with hard liquor from the decanter, as our narrator gets a case of the shaky hands and tells us that “nothing will get him back on thatship”. “The Upper Berth” is a great story about a passenger on a cruise ship who ends up staying in a room which all the staff speak ill of due to the fate of several of those who were boarded there on previous voyages. The adaptation really keeps some of the best descriptions that set the scene, e.g. “sad coloured curtains”, his sensory description of the “wet” floor, and the individual running like “the shadow of a galloping horse”, and the performance around the spookiness of the “port hole” is memorable. In “The Monkey’s Paw”, we get a different story about a family who acquire a magical artifact from a Sergeant-Major returning from service India that grants wishes; but when has that ever been unproblematic? Robinson’s range is good as he moves from the part of an educated, supernatural sceptic to the Northern, working class father of the story in “The Monkey’s Paw”, who seems more than willing to accept and get his hands dirty in that superstitious, dark unknown. Other side characters such as the doctor on the boat are effectively performed allowing us reminisce of how an exasperated, worried and educated man of science of the time might be like too.

The constrasting themes of the perils of the curiosity of the scientific method (The Upper Berth) vs the curiosity of the chance to cheat life and fate itself are gruesomely desperate and fun themes. “The Monkey’s Paw” is great for what it doesn’t show too as well are left to imagine the grisly “machinery” death of one of the characters. It’s fascinating to see here how the promise of wealth even corrupts those with modest ideas about improving their station in life but also the pain and strength of avoiding temptation and trying to right a terrible wrong. Robinson switches between roles well, they all have distinct voices and idioms that make them recognisable. The only confusion for us is when Mr White (in the Monkey’s Paw) seems to refer to his wife as “Mother”. This could be narratively simpler for the audience to follow or it is possible we are losing our own internal plot at this point.

Credit must be given to the BSL interpreter (whose name I did not get unfortunately) whose forlorn and haunted expressions accompanied the signings and kept the grim atmosphere and tension high. The set is recognisable and effective in it’s choice of furnishings (Steve Watling/Charlotte Woods, technical manager) with the ghostly, greyed pictures in frames and domesticity of “The Monkey’s Paw” compared with the rolling netting, old case and dusty bottles of the marine nightmare. The lighting was moody and communicated the bleakness of the dark well (particularly as part of The Upper Berth). At times there were loud sound spikes for the jump scares. These were quite successful, we did jump at least once during the show after a scary build up.

These two stories are a great showcase of presentation, performance and writing. “Haunted” is the unfolding dread of the unknown and the dangers of human choice and inquisitiveness when perhaps things, “should just be left alone”. Old in subject yet lovingly adapted (and inclusive), it was a night to remind of the joys of storytelling and bone-chilling horror.

Photos by Charlotte Woods,

Check out the rest of Enable Us’s programme here, theres some great stuff.

For more details of projects and artists LittleMighty support, click here.

For enquiries around covering horror, folk horror theatre or folk music, please email us on

Folk Stories Historical Traditional

The Transports – 2017 – 27th Jan – Buxton Opera House

A hallmark example of a revival done well, “The Transports” brings stalwarts of the folk world to tell affecting stories through song and history.


Peter Bellamy’s folk ballad opera about migration, “The Transports” is back. Having it’s 40th Anniversary it does not so much ask the crowd to continue dancing, but rather teaches a few new steps that should encourage the shyest member to put on their shoes and join the party. It does this through an injection of modern stories, local history research, and a selection of eminent and accomplished musicians who makeup the cast.  On tour at a number of venues, it is a dazzling and consummate collection of songs and stories that can clearly be seen to have been sharpened by the whetstone of politics. But while there is a strong theme around migration and hardship, there is also a lot of love and altruism here and the strongest theme that emerges is people’s visible spirit of optimism even when one is short of life choices. We shall return to this later.

Funded by the Arts Council England, we went to see the show at the grand Opera House in Buxton, Derbyshire (and a lovely venue it was too).

There is a lot to see and think about in this theatre event, so in turn let us look at the three main strands within the performance: the historical part, the contemporary links, and the song performances themselves.

Historical Bits

So “The Transports” is based around 1783. It starts with the story of Henry Cabel (Sean Cooney) who is an honest man in Suffolk looking at his neighbours in Norfolk and their wealth. He is down on his luck and struggling to feed himself; as the narrator (Matthew Crampton) says, “He’s a good man.. but he’s getting tempted.” This is the first of many explanations by the narrator which paints a morally grey landscape for all the people whatever their time of history, there is a lot of philosophical complexity to be wrought here. Crampton does a good job throughout of planting the seed of reflection in the audience, giving them the context and the tools and asking them if they would have acted differently in such a harsh and brutal world where the stakes are much higher. Crampton has a great voice that entices and explains. He pulls the audience in like a magical toyshop owner, he has some joy and sorrow that he cannot live to keep to himself. His investment in the role is not only visible to see, it can be gleaned from his wonderful research of Parallel Lines that feeds directly into parts of the play (more on this later).

The story progresses, Henry’s desperation leads leads to some unfortunate consequences with him joining with vagabond Abe Carman (David Eagle from the Young ‘Uns) to attempt burglary, They are caught, go to trial and then there are some bad outcomes.. and some very bad outcomes. Mostly framed around the songs, “The Transports” doesn’t so much explain every inner and outer working of the character in their song like in musicals per se (there are no songs about doing laundry for example), it rather opens a space for a broader discussion, a wider personal reflection about that character’s feelings. There are  a few acting segments that illustrate this too, though it is much more about the song. That being said, David Eagle makes a truly lothesome yet fetching man of different moral dispositions in his role which made me think extensively of Fagin (the pickpocket from Oliver Twist, not James Fagan to clarify). His time is short, but the performance both inside and outside the “Robber’s Song” is a something to enjoy a lot. From all the musicians (barring maybe Greg Russell’s Turnkey) he carries more of the mannerisms into the song and embodies the character such that is certainly memorable.


As the play continues events move like the great waves between England and Australia, up and down with joy and grief. Henry meets Susannah (Rachael Mcshane) his future wife in prison and we begin to see some of the joys and the warmth that can be found in oppressive circumstances. Rachael plays her role with some grace and kindness whilst Cooney’s Henry is hopeful and the aforementioned Turnkey (Greg Russell) has a whale of a time being the hero (though not at carrying newborns). Alongside the artists having an acting turn, the choice of having the narrator direct so much of the action and explain what is happening is a good one. It means the musicians can play to their strengths and focus their characters into their musical numbers and tightens what we see; especially as the the whole cast necessarily are on the stage at all times.

As mentioned already, there is a huge silver streak of optimism within the play that doesn’t paint the historical situation as “entirely hopeless” even when things seem bad: love can happen in a prison or someone’s conscience will often lead them to a good deed. It mentions “change” in the form of the French Revolution and portrays England interestingly as a social pot about to boil over. It makes the times multi-faceted and lifts from the writing Bellamy’s faith in people to do good things. Even when people do less good things it is either through an attempt to control oppressive circumstances (Susannah stealing cutlery to escape being effectively a slave) or as a small footnote to a future of great accomplishment on the right side of the law. The play certainly makes you think about the notions of rehabilitation, circumstance, and morality.


Contemporary Links

One of the joys of seeing “The Transports” is it’s knowing looks at how the themes in the historical story are still very much a part of our modern fabric.

Returning to Matthew Crampton’s narrator, there are a number of wry references to the “privately-run” prisons of the time (and now), but also a sharing of the names of people involved in another exodus from London to the textile mills of Derbyshire. Through the research of the Parallel Lines project, he mentions the grim applications of the Poor Law and the experiences of children working in industry. The disparity between the lives they were promised and the lives they actually led is quite jarring, for locals who might not be aware of the price to dignity that some industries have made, this play is quite an eye-opener.  Each show is different too. Depending on the venue, the narrator gives the names of local people from history who have suffered similar fates and hardships based on the decisions of industry owners and Government. Doubtless there are parts of the tour which even more history than being seen at Buxton but even the smallest mentions of a person or two are enough to think of these cruel times and how far (in some ways) we have come. It was both enlightening and sad. The effort to integrate this research into the play has the effect of slowing down events, but it is a poignant and relevant stop which really adds a cultural significance, and a heart to this showing of “The Transports”.

Another significant and pretty heart-wrenching modern link is the production’s choice to include the Young ‘Uns song, “Dark Water.” Telling the story of two Syrian refugees attempting to swim across the Aegean Sea it is a claustrophobic, gutting and poignant song. With the media spotlighting this issue a lot last year, this brings it back again explaining much like for the characters of the piece Henry and Sussanah, that these journeys are an ultimate risk that flies in the face of modern discourses against immigrants. Rather than seeing asylum seekers as mildly inconvenienced, carefree people and are coming to this Country to scam hard workers, it highlights a desperation that can only come from all-consuming hopelessness. It is a timely reminder of a risk-taking decision we could all very easily have to make if our lives got threatened in the same way through war or famine.


Songs and Music

This production of “The Transports” is certainly an energetic one. It helps that much like the original run (that had influential folk artists such as Norma Waterson, Martin Carthy and June Tabor to just name a handful), a number of recognised and young artists are involved in this.

Joining those already mentioned (Sean Cooney, David Eagle, Rachael McShane, Gregg Russell) there is also Michael Hughes (the Young Un’s) Nancy Kerr, and the members of Faustus (Paul Sartin, Saul Rose, Benji Kirkpatrick) who bring their trademark qualities of solemness, raucous energy, and focus to a pretty varied roster of songs. It is an impressive lineup that delivers some memorable experiences with each several highlights throughout.

All are great without exception. There are the beautiful laments of The Mother (Nancy Kerr), a wonderful number with Rachael McShane and Sean Conney that looks towards freedom, and a few other that are equally affecting. The opening Overture song is especially strong; it is clearly a sprint start and Paul Sartin’s voice and passion gives the beginning of this longboat of a play the oars that will push it onward. The Young ‘Uns seem like they born to do “The Transports”, especially as their music has more than once taken a cue from modern news (listen to Carriage 12) and the magnitude of their unaccompanied voices sits incredibly well with fellow award winners here. Another number which is especially fun is “Plymouth Mail”. What can only be described as a “land shanty” in my vocabulary, is a galloping, high octane number with the horses of the cart pulling with an energy and determination that matches the accompanying scene perfectly. There are some quieter moments too, but of course it all ramps up again for the finale. The final performance of “Roll Down” is certainly a powerhouse in every sense of the word. Going out on a sublime high, the ensemble case gives it more welly than a gaggle of pirate wanglers. Amazingly deep, rousing and quite brilliant, the show goes out with an unmatcheable gusto.

In Conclusion

All together, a great contemporary take.”The Transports” in 2017 is a triumph in it’s mix of song performance, history and human philosophies. Fans of the artists involved should go just to see them all in one place, but compared to what else this whole production brings this would be the slimmest of reasons for enjoying it. Kudos to creative producer Tim Dalling’s inputs and Paul Sartin’s role of Musical Director which has shaped a hugely spirited, and committed modern take that feels very faithful to the core messages of Peter Bellamy.

There is a lot here, a lot to take in, and 40 years since the play first went around it feels inside like it is as relevant as ever .


Some tickets are available for the touring show on “The Transports” website here.

If you are still unsure, have a look at their preview video below.



The images used in this post belong to their respective owners, I do not imply ownership of them with their inclusion here.

Folk Stories Gigs

Adverse Camber- Fire in the North Sky at The Crucible Studio, Sheffield 11/10/16

For one night only the Studio space of the Crucible was turned into a a kaleidoscope of story, wonder and history with a combined storytelling and musical performance of “Fire in the North Sky” by Adverse Camber. There were birds, bears, men forging with gold and silver, and other incredible creations told and performed from the Kalevala, a hundred thousand lines of collected story traditions from ancient Finnish history so rich in material you feel that the show barely scratched the surface of the epic. Collected by Elias Lonnrot in the 19th Century it was brought to life by Adverse Camber, an independent production company that curates original, expansive stories from another time and another place, and works with artists and venues to transmit these tales more valuable than silk to a modern audience. They are quite local too coming from Derbyshire, and much like their other recent work I reviewed, The Shahnameh (here), there is an energy and excitement to their show which balances the need for telling stories that stand up on their own merits. Not only this but the company manages it without unnecessary set-pieces of over-the-top props that could dilute the richness of the story, the oral tradition takes centre stage. Credit to the producer, Naomi Wilds for shaping the show and director (Paula Crutchlow) for moving the pieces, the Studio was a particularly good choice to host such a program. The decision to use the Crucible Studio meant that quite an intimate connection could be forged with the audience that neither cramped the audience or dwarfed the performers; much like in Goldilocks, the size was just right. The words flourished on the boards of the stage and there was no danger of there being much empty space in the audience as the pre-show interest must have been immense with the studio being fully packed out to the gills and rapt in attention.


“Fire in the North Sky” does not have a single theme as such running through it. It is a series of stories with certain characters rotating, appearing and disappearing into the ether which echoes the variation and improvisation of these sung stories in antiquity. Like a river the whole thing moves a winding course as a necessary and inescapable aspect of storytelling but there in presentation there was evidence that the tales chosen are sufficiently different in order to provide at least one tale of interest to each audience member. There is a cast of four and all are utilised in connecting to the audience in a different way; Nick Hennessey took the lead in the engagements and telling stories, Anna-Kaisa Liedes and Kristiina Ilmonen brought a bewildering myriad of voice improvisations and Tima Vaananen performed his kantele playing skills throughout linking the stories together. It does mean there is something that everyone will enjoy and given as the performers are folk story and music academics, there is a feeling of being part of something that is well researched and conveyed that adds an extra dimension to the raw draw of a pub yarn from old friends.

With the stories themselves there is certainly an interesting array with several of them touching on the notion of humankind, godhood and the pure power of knowledge. As expected there is morality seeping through the seams where some questionable choices are made by the characters but there is also the heroic ideal shown with individual mortals making bold and beautiful choices in this a strange ancient world. A favourite is the story of Ilmarinen, the blacksmith who upon losing his wife decides to forge a new wife from gold and silver to “fill the space” on her pillow and bed where her head and hip were.



Despite his toil and looking like he would fail at some point. he does indeed forge a new women but comes to to the realisation that she is cold to the touch. It is part allegory for the futility of substituting human love for material love and part warning of the limits of man’s power (especially well communicated by Nick Hennessey who you can practically smell and feel the sweat and scorching tools as he works the blacksmiths fire).

In another story, Ilmarinen is being forced to forge the Sampo, a magical mill that creates grain, salt and gold, a veritable philosophers stone plus. An enigmatic device to us, but clearly the most life sustaining and valuable commodities of the age. Here both Anna-Kaisa and Kristiina Ilmonen create a vivid scene as the metal goes in the fire and comes out in a number of forms such as a crossbow, a ship. a cow; in the audience the tension rises and the instrumentalists add layers of wails and hisses that are somewhere between creature, human, and material. There is a noticeable breadth and variety of sounds that emerge of a degree and quality I have not yet heard in equal during another storytelling event. At times in the show it felt like you could get lost in thick conifer forests that had sprung up around, and the lush grasses had risen from our seats for the precision of the elements of the soundscape that are introduced are second to none.


There are also some other familiar figures such as shape-changing witches, the magical musical player Vainamoinen who brings to things to life with his kantele, and Lemmionkainen a youth restored to life through the maternal questing on his mother; it is an exciting spectacle from a rather unknown storytelling region from my own experiences, but on that draws parallels to other more familiar cultures, e.g. Osiris in Egyptian mythology for example who body is pieced back together. Tima Vaananen certainly brings some magic with the music throughout and the authentic addition of this old instrument seems as essential as the Finnish self-deprecating wit. It’s presence acts like the thread that holds the seams of the epic together. The theatre experience is encapsulated with a free programme that is given out which explains the song and story style, the history of the region, and crucial information about the characters focused on. It is a good starting point for anyone keen to learn about Finnish myth an itself a nice souvenir.

In just the two Adverse Camber productions I have seen I have been impressed. There is a great variety between the two but both share a great selection of stories, the curation of some less obvious but interesting material for the audience, and some warm story-telling. Out of the two, Fire in the Sky had a bigger cast, probably more musical and backing variety (but then there is a bigger cast) than the Shahnameh. The Studio allowed the story to progress across the bigger space but the Shahnameh necessarily had to make more creative use of the space and set pieces when I saw it in the smaller Derby venue (which did add some charm). They are minor comparisons and differences, both are a great showcase of talent, a veritable saga of morality and creation, and most importantly an enjoyable night. If you get the chance to see an Adverse Camber work go and see, prepare to be educated and entertained in uncountable ways!

If you want to check out Adverse Camber and their upcoming work, check out their website here.


I do not claim ownership or copyright on the above publicity pictures, see Adverse Camber’s website for more information.

Folk Stories

The Shahnameh “vibrant and colourful with ancient intrigue” – Derby Folk Festival 2016

Title: The Shahnameh: The Epic Book of Kings

Company: Adverse Camber

Producer: Naomi Wilds

Arts Council England

It is Friday 30 September and the first night of the Derby Folk Festival 2016. The marquee is up, the rain is generally holding off and the crowds are just forming. With the choice that there is I take the thoughtful approach and decide to start the festival like the opening of a good book (with a story and spectacle) and go to the Guildhall Theatre to see “The Shanameh: The Epic Book of Kings” brought to us by production company, Adverse Camber.

Broadening it’s remit this year Derby Folk Festival has programmed a piece of live theatre to flavour the start the festival. Different and contrasting to some more identifiable folk (Alma, Sam Kelly) and fan-favourites Fairport Convention on slightly later, it takes a different tack by introducing story-telling of the epic nature early on giving a chance for reflection and consideration of what is heard throughout the three days in Derby. Adapted and staged by a company called Adverse Camber (a producing company based in Cromford, Derbyshire) the stage performance of “The Shahnameh” tells a number of stories and myths that feel familiar to fans of literature and storytelling, yet surprise in their richness of character and mystery of their setting and time in ancient Persia. In having the opportunity to  see this live theatrical event I feel enriched and truly grateful to have made this choice as an opening event.

The Shahnameh is a poem and a historical account of Iran, but these descriptions does not even remotely do it justice. Written by a Persian poet called Ferdowsi between 977 and 1010BC, it does indeed tell some scholarly elements of history and politics though where it shines is the time it spends with the characters and other aspects of wonder and myth. The book has over 50, 000 lines of verse so the performance has to keep it brief! Split into a number of different ages, the company chooses to tell us some fairly action-packed adventures that come predominantly from the “Heroic Age” including stories of Rustam a powerful, several-hundred years old man dragged into the battles and politics of an array of powerful shahs, the beautiful and powerful Simorgh bird straight from imaginative myth who lends aid when it is most needed, and several other characters including Rakhsk a horse the colour of “rose leaves scattered on saffron”. A special strength in the parts and delivery of the story are these characters. Yes, the men are powerful and the women beautiful but there is deception both ways. The mother “Simorgh” bird is immensely wise and strong and a key part of the story, Tahmina is a half-human, half-fairy woman who through pure conviction and choice wants Rustam as a husband; I recommend the stories for people wanting to see gender done right and well even from an unimaginably old literary text.

There is a wonderful, colourful and informative free programme with the show.
There is a wonderful, colourful and informative free programme with the show.

These sensory descriptions give a very vivid sense of the characters but it is the combination of the storyteller and musician that make it truly dance.

Told by Xanthe Gresham Knight (narrator) and accompanied with music of the time and place from Arash Moradi (musician) it builds and maintains a feeling of being taken far, it felt like some of the mundanity of life were brushed aside as we heard the wondrous lives of people thousands of years ago. The story unfolds through the openness of storytelling in the Naqali form, a surprising and engaging form of performance that allows some improvisation and direct engagement of the audience. Several people would roll their eyes at the thought of taking part in a show they have paid to see in front of them, but Knight managed to encourage and draw the audience without being heavy-handed or coercive. By the end like all good stories they were gleefully involved with singing the chants of battlecrys and as birds of the forest, and the whole show felt like it was taking on a life of it’s own- by the interval you really wanted to know what happens next. This connection can be so hard to get in this artform and even with Knight’s exceptional experience in Storytelling (such as having numerous Storytelling Residencies) it still felt like there was a potential for it being a challenging opening as something so different within a full folk music programme, but it all goes exceptionally well and the audience was truly enthralled.

As mentioned, Arash Moradi’s music is something quite special. Throughout the tests of strength, the incredibly romantic encounters and the eloquent riddles that all hallmarks of great stories, the music was ever present. The show seamlessly shifts from one instrument to the next, the drum instrument is made to make the sound of thunderous hooves from what seems like the world’s biggest horse, and the quieter encounters of the heart the next; the shades of emotion are impressive. The imagination of the stories and beliefs of Zoroastrianism were positively conveyed, the heroes felt taller, the moral quandaries greater; the music winds and shapes and like the sweetest perfume draws you in. The message and character of the show is an epic and bombastic yet thoughtful piece that captures your heart and runs with it.


Credit should also go to the creative team involved with the show. Collaborating director (Kate Higginbottom), design assistant (Claudine Scheer), technical manager (Gethin Stacey), associate producer (Louisa Davies) and producer (Naomi Wilds) have come together to deliver a show that manages to tell old series of stories indeed but make them familiar and shining with an edge of gold leaf. The set is quite minimal but is used really well, the storyteller moves across it in unpredictable ways and takes a number of shapes and characters to convey the story; there is never any confusion about who or what she is representing and the direction helps with this. The stories themselves are quite striking, they remind me a little of the scale and imagination in the Ramanyana on one hand and the familiarity of nature stories like the Jungle Book on the other.

A great beginning to Derby Folk, fans of storytelling cannot fail to be impressed and several others will almost definitely become converts. Adverse have managed the task of choosing an interesting story, telling it in an interesting way, and managing to involve the audience in a gentle way it is vibrant and colourful with ancient intrigue.

If you get a chance to see this as it tours you really should, details are here, alongside their other storytelling tours.

I look forward to seeing what else the festival has in store.

Check out a video of the show below: