Jane Talbot's lyrical, poetical prose was lifted straight from the page and brought to life by the magnificent, playful performances of Big Telly Theatre Company.
One of my first night's out since baby Dylan was born, I'd been looking forward to this since meeting Zoe Seaton last year. And The Faerie Thorne did not disappoint. I had wanted to get hold of the book and read the stories before going to see the show, but Amazon had sold out when I tried to buy the book (published by Blackstaff Press) - perhaps everyone else had heard what great stories they are. But it didn't matter that I hadn't read them and in fact, I was glad I hadn't. Because I was on the edge of my seat.
Magic and Mystery...
Trolls, Mermaids and their ugly male counterparts, a changeling and a Faerie Queen the night was filled with magic and mystery, the kind we all hope to find when we come to Ireland. There were songs that made your heartache and your spirits rise, storytelling of lyrical proportions and many, many laughs.
The three stories were beautifully woven together, my favourite was the story of Bright Blue, whose kind heart had him sacrificing parts of himself to help others. Achingly sad and told using full Trestle-esque face masks, the methods used to bring this tale to life were knowing and hilarious - but more of that later.
The show started with the story of Wife Donaghy and her treacherous husband, who, rather unpleasantly, gets his comeuppance at the hands of the maniacal trolls who rip his skin from his body. Not something I've seen in theatre before and, even though it wasn't really his skin, I was still watching from behind my hands.
The final story was that of the changeling son of Wife Donaghy and her Faerie King, who is swapped into the body of a local boy and tamed by the love of his parents. This story was written just for the stage and beautifully brings the show full circle at the end.
Bringing magic to life...
There's no denying these were dark and disturbing tales, just as fairy tales should be (and once were before Perrault got his hands on them). Including trolls skinning a man alive, organ transplants live on stage, a commentary from the undead and a talking tree, the production had all sorts of un-naturalistic concepts and moments the Big Telly expertly brought to life.
One of my favourites was the 'freeing of the dead souls' which was represented on stage by (what I assume were) helium filled yellow balloons. When Bright Blue opened the trap doors, the balloons rose up, representing the souls freed to journey to the afterlife. Simple, yet effective.
Every good storyteller knows there is a balance between drawing your audience in to your landscape of story and the occasional knowing nod to the artistic process. Big Telly did this superbly, I was both completely enthralled in Jane's fantastic stories whilst at the same time inspired, mesmerised and humoured by their storytelling tools.
Another favourite, and I'll try not to give too much away, was Bright Blue's transplants. A screen, two actors in scrubs and a pair of forceps. Add to this a playful 'patient' throwing blood at the plastic screen (and at the doctor - for a bit of fun) and you have a memorable piece of storytelling that does it's job and gets a laugh for the actor at the same time.
Needless to say I enjoyed my night out immensely, Big Telly were inspiring and have given me lots of ideas for my upcoming work on The Queen Bee. I am sure this play will run and run, and so it should. It is the best of Irish storytelling and audiences the world over should be allowed to enjoy it.
Now to find a copy of The Faerie Thorn and find out what other dark tales reside in its pages.