The art of live storytelling is not an easy thing to perfect. With audiences inclined to drift off as soon as they hear a hint of the past clause, it takes a skilled performer to maintain the energy of a narrative without over-acting or becoming mono-tonal. It’s therefore a fine testament to the talent of Firstborn Theatre Company that their newly written show Winter Tales manages to hold its audience captivated for a full two and half hours with barely a yawn or a shuffle in sight.
Winter Tales, set in The Kings Arms off Russell Sq, comprises a collection of five short stories, each one performed in a different room of the comfortable old pub. On entering, the audience is split into five separate groups which are periodically rotated around the rooms of the pub, so that by the end of the night everyone has experienced all five of the stories. The Kings Arms has given itself over completely to these quirky weekend performances; a bold move on the part of the landlord but, as it turns out, a lucrative one. Last Saturday ‘Winter Tales’ drew in a huge crowd of thirsty audience members – and deservedly so.
The show has two key strengths; one is the sheer quality of both the writing and acting, the other is the tight organisation of the production team, whose efficiency ensures that every audience member knows where they need to be at any one time.
The stories themselves are sophisticated and multifaceted, ranging from the ghostly memoirs of a lovelorn bus conductor, to a well observed and ultimately disturbing account of a young university couple, whose lives have tumbled into tedium and domestic aggression. Particular mention must go to Moya McGinn whose charismatic performance of the story ‘Babby’ was extremely impressive and left four of my group in tears – one of whom was a big hulking man named Darren.
I must also congratulate the company on the ghost story ‘Basement’, which was wonderfully immersive and had us all on a knife edge. At one point I was so terrified that I accidentally leapt onto a stranger’s lap (being pitch dark I don’t know whose lap it was I ended up on…possibly Darren’s)
Understated yet hugely entertaining, Winter Tales is a delight. I recommend booking early and leaving plenty of time to get there as Russell Square is a confusing place and The Kings Arms is rather illusive.
For more information on Firstborn Theatre Company see their website here.