Powerful story-telling takes centre stage in Retelling Tales. A stripped-back stage with no props or set allows us to focus on the monologue being told, emphasising the reality and personal nature of the stories, rather than performing them in the created world of a theatre set.
From transgender rights, to environmental issues and feminism, the stories are personal, powerful accounts that present individual strife as a part of the human experience in a number of different ways. Some are very personal – a mother’s tale of accepting her transgender daughter, for instance. Other stories are broader, looking at issues which affect the world – more than one touches on conservation and the importance of looking outwards beyond the self.
All of the stories told are TED talks, performed by the actors. Lucy Miles performs a monologue written by the playwright and activist Eve Ensler, which is an emotive and hard-hitting piece – starting with her survival of childhood abuse, through feeling dissociated from her body to cancer and finally looking out to the strife of others to bring her back to herself.
Poetically written, Ensler’s story escapes the potential of slipping into a story solely about her as an individual, but instead illustrates the importance of looking outwards and engaging with the world. Miles’ performance is strong and emotive but she avoids telling Ensler’s story as if she were solely a victim, instead conveying the importance of how personal stories are able to relate to others, and the necessity of perspective. Ensler writes of hearing the stories of people on her travels and having the revelation: “I suddenly understood that the crisis in my body was the crisis of the world, and it wasn’t happening later, it was happening now.”
Retelling Tales is certainly a unique production, with more than a few content warnings, it is not a light-hearted production. Nevertheless, it demonstrates the power of storytelling in a way that allows us to empathise with the storyteller. Although the stories are personal, they have been chosen for their ability to be applied to broader issues, the fact they are told by actors alludes to the broader importance of stories and reminds us that personal experience is part of the human experience.
Three different monologues will be told each night at the Burton Taylor studio, back to back, with the name of the pieces being performed kept a mystery. Retelling Tales will be performed at the Burton Taylor Studio from Tuesday- Saturday of 7th week at 9:30pm, with student tickets priced at £5.