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Narratives that transcend

WEAVING PAST WITH PRESENT Giles Abbott at the event.  

“I do not know what the end of my story will be...” exclaimed Giles Abbott who is by the way a professional storyteller from the United Kingdom! It is the excitement of traversing the unknown that made the recently organised British Council’s ‘The Art of Storytelling’ tour’s stopover in Delhi, special. As part of the tour, three top professional storytellers have been invited to underline the deep cultural history that both the nations share.

The age of ‘once upon a time’ is fast vanishing in the era of nuclear families and kids more than often do not get the privilege to live with their grandparents. Those who did, remember how wonderful listening and weaving miraculous stories of kings and demons, fairies and gnomes, good and evil and prince and princesses were! “If one delves into the creation of culture, one can witness how oral story tradition has always been the means of keeping philosophies and ethos of the ancestors alive and only because of these oral traditions that tales of Odysseus, Achilles, Pygmalion, and so forth are alive for our generation to hear and gain wisdom from,” said storyteller Katy Cawkwell.

With marvellous voice modulations, depicting almost five characters simultaneously at one point, one could see the rows of kids getting enthralled by Sarah Rundle, another storyteller from West London. “Possibly the oldest art form, and something we’ve done around camp fires for tens of thousands of years, storytelling opens windows into other times and cultures,” exclaimed Sarah when asked about the relevance of storytelling in the contemporary scenario.

Giles Abbott, a tall British with his chivalrous ways and sonorous voice states, “I lost my sight and found my path in storytelling.” The story of Pygmalion was a fine one he chose to express but his own personal story was moving beyond measure as well. Having lost 80 percent of his eye sight when he once loved to read books, he switched over to telling stories and regaling the audience than groping blindly in his misery. And the best part of his rendition of Pygmalion’s personal version was that he left it to the audience to decide the fate of the man who fell in love with his hand made statue. And by and by took the audience with him to unravelling the finale of his version, which by all means was created by the listeners themselves!

Sarah was another bundle of expounding energy with one of the funniest renditions, leaving the kids as well as their parents in splits! “Reading Cindrella from a book is not what the contemporary storytelling is about. It is about making the eye contact, getting the audience interaction, taking them with you on a journey. Stories range from gypsy tales, urban legends and African trickster fables, to the Mahabharat, which can take nine days to tell.”

When Katy was asked as to why she still tell stories, she said, “Telling stories is when I feel most fully alive: grounded in myself and in the moment and yet connected to a body of material that is rich in humanity and greater than any individual performer. My particular strengths as a teller are to draw out a compelling, emotional tale from a complex narrative and to find just the right phrases and gestures to bring the characters and landscapes to life.” Hers was a rendition of a hunter who finds a blue dove and how the dove transforms into a beautiful damsel and his fate there on.

All the storytellers explicitly said that although the Indian kids might not have been very familiar with the heavy British accent in which they spoke, the actions did catch their eyes and how.

The excitement, the exhilaration, and the elation to sit under the open sky and witness these performances was enough for the kids to get inspired. In fact, Katy told us that after the performances kids came back stage to take autographs and photographs, something which she has never witnessed in the UK.

The storytellers received a similar response while performing in cities like Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.

Sitting under the starry moonlit sky, with the winter chill steadily drawing in, hearing these amazing stories being weaved out of thin air, one could not help but recall a famous quote by the acclaimed author J.K. Rowling: “There's always room for a story that can transport people to another place!”

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 11:52:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Narratives-that-transcend/article16644655.ece

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