Storytelling at The Royal Exchange

David Carter, the Peter Pan of the entertainment world, has taken his innovative, storytelling show on the road. Till now, the proprietor of 40 Winks has been entertaining wide-eyed, pyjama-clad Londoners with stories told in the bowels of his East End townhouse but last Wednesday, he and his elves set up camp in the heart of the city.

The dress code for Tales of Wonder and Amazement at The Royal Exchange advised us: ‘prepare to sprawl, lounge and linger.’ And in a private dining room, above the dignified bustle of the luxury shopping precinct, we did just this, fuelled in our louche behaviour by cocktails and a variety of mini-food – including Scotch Eggs presented in some kind of jus.

We were given an hour to soak up the ambience before someone bellowed ‘Open Sesame!’ at a door, which obeyed revealing embroidered cushions slung around to form a cosy nest on the floor. First to stand tall amidst the cushions – gesturing and making clever use of her voice – was Nell Phoenix who fired off three tales of mathematic, romantic and poetic resonance. The finale, a Nasreddin Hodja story about a poor man trying to steal the smell of a soup was the neatest. Neat, in my storytelling book, is the way to audience gratification.

We just had time for a cup of hot chocolate and some deli nibbles to power our attention spans before it was time for the second half and two stories from Rachel Rose Reid. The owner of this fine alliterative name seemed as at home on stage as George Osborne does destroying the welfare state. She raised the bar – as George shall raise the retirement age – with her second story, a classic Greek myth about how Persephone came to spend half the year in the underworld with Hades. RRR’s neatness in starting and ending with reference to ‘the lightness in the dark and the darkness in the light’ makes her eligible for the SMK Perfect Arch in Fiction Award.

This would have been a reasonable place to end the night and leave us scurrying off with our goodie bags but Carter and the gang had one more trick up their sleeve: Katy Carr. This banjolele strumming, keyboard pumping, post-war style folkstress had me pinned to the back of the wall in the best possible way. I like my songs like I like my men: coarse, full-bodied and with enough soul for two (mine gives out now and again).

And then that really was that but with a pop-up hotel planned for late July and a stint planned at the Secret Garden Party, keep your eyes and ears strained for a tall pale dandy and his merry band of creative accomplices.

Tales of Wonder and Amazement at the Royal Exchange took place at:

The Private Dining Room
The Royal Exchange

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