Thirteen people sat by candlelight in a warm, newly opened cafe…… That was the beginning of our recent storytelling event, a new venture for both Kindred Theatre and our partner for the evening, Elsie Cafe & Deli in Crouch End, bringing together a group of people who had never met to share stories on the theme of 'New Beginnings'.
As someone who often plans rigorously, and though I had loosely prepared a story to share, I had purposefully attempted to not plan too much this time, as I wanted to be open and listen to what other people were saying (rather than be ‘rehearsing’ in my head) and respond to the atmosphere of the evening. And I'm glad that I did.
As a company, myself and fellow director Chris, have recently been talking a great deal about the work of Mike Alfreds, in particular the ethos of the 'shared experience’, something that is fundamental to the way Kindred Theatre works. We had hoped that at this even this present would take communal responsibility for sharing stories, sharing roles - audience and the 'performer' - and shape the night into whatever was wanted. And it felt like that happened.
Chris gave a short introduction to outline how the evening would work - if you wanted to share a story, you simply had to put your name on a bit of paper and put it into the box to be drawn out at random. No pressure, just if you felt like it - and more than half the group did.
The first thing I’m sure we all shared was a sense of trepidation - how would this work, would our stories be good, would we be any good? As one of our first story tellers Lisa put it, the rush of adrenalin was palpable. But everyone made that courageous step toward a new beginning, simply by stepping into the role and the unknown.
The stories themselves were great - eclectic in subject and telling style, and utterly transportive. There was an intimacy with us, the listeners, all of who were rapt and engaged. The power of the story took over, for both the teller and the listeners, and I felt an integral part of the story.
The evening was a poignant reminder that a story doesn’t exist or have purpose without a listener and that all that is needed for a connection to happen is something to say, someone to say it and someone to hear it. And when the stories you hear are real, personal and told utterly in the moment, you very easily recognise events and sensations, and connect them to your own life - it becomes a shared experience that we can all identify with.