Art of the Storyteller

I was welcomed, at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, to a warm and intimate setting for an evening of storytelling by James Spence and Daniel Serridge. There was little information online about the kinds of stories that would be told, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that Spence and Serridge discussed a plethora of different topics, from old Scottish myths and chronicles of young love to tales about the animal kingdom. Their stories were short yet captivating, and the range of themes made the evening very accessible; there was something for everybody in the audience.

The room was large and spacious, set out in a laid-back fashion with a number of tables facing the performers who took centre stage at the front of the room. However, the performers stood on the same level as the audience and often engaged with them, gesturing to them and asking questions. This created a casual atmosphere , almost like a family gathering, in which the audience felt part of the action.

Likewise, the two performers, as they took it in turns to speak, adopted distinct tones of storytelling. The evening began with James Spence telling stories of faraway lands and beyond, his thick Scottish accent and relaxed tone providing a mystical atmosphere. Daniel Serridge took a more enthusiastic and animated approach. He moved around the room and used his voice in all kinds of ways to keep the audience engaged.

Spence and Serridge told a mixture of fictitious tales and personal anecdotes, drawing on individual experiences from past and present as the mood shifted from mysterious, to fast-paced, to comical, and so on as the event progressed. Some of my favourite stories were the personal ones told by the storytellers about their family and loved ones, which were emotionally engaging. I particularly enjoyed the story Serridge told about his son Finn, who was named after the friendly giant Finn McCool.

The only criticism I have is that, for an event of just passive listening quite late in the evening, two hours of storytelling is fairly long, and concentration may have begun to fade for some audience members.

Overall, the ‘Art of the Storyteller’ did exactly what it promised; the storytellers provided two hours of enchanting narrations, proving that the spoken word can bring stories to life in a way that reading them simply cannot.

Image: Maori McFayden

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