Monday, 18 March 2013

Tell It Your Way, with the Yarnsmith of Norwich

Sheila Chapman writes:

4pm, Saturday 16 March, New Headingley Club

We were called from our lovely tea and cakes (thanks to Leeds Voice Day) by the beating of a drum to meet our mediaeval tale teller, Dave Tonge.

We sat in a semi-circle around Dave and the children sat on the sheepskin rugs on the floor. Dave started by asking us to solve a riddle. It was a long riddle (as befits a story teller) involving a bird asleep on the branch of a tree, our desperate need for the wood from the branch and , here’s the catch, the fact that the branch needed to be taken without disturbing the bird, for if the bird was disturbed  something nasty would happen. All our suggested solutions to the riddle were useless and we grew increasingly desperate. Someone even suggested shooting the bird but we passed on very quickly from that being all very sound Headingley anti-blood sport types.  In the end a wise-woman in the front row suggested we might wait until the bird woke up and flew away – of course that was the answer, doh!!!

And so the afternoon went on. Robin Hood won an archery competition (we gasped as he and his opponents demonstrated their skill and we applauded the final winning shots), a young man searched for and found his luck (it was NOT a happy ending), a man regretted finding a voice for his beautiful wife who had been previously dumb and, finally, it was proven that women are definitely brainier than men – wild cheers from the audience!

Throughout the event the children wriggled and squirmed on the rugs, they shot their hands in the air to answer questions, made off-the-wall suggestions for plot improvement and were so captivated by Dave’s performance that when he suggested, at one stage, that we might all draw closer they practically climbed in his pockets.

It was a terrific afternoon and Dave truly earned his title – Master Storyteller.

Sally Bavage writes:
Witty raconteur?  Life and soul of the party?  Dinner party leading light?  Thought not!  If you haven’t got one of those endless self-help books, then you should have come to this entertaining workshop giving hints and tips for those wishing to be any/all of the above, or intending teachers, or conference speakers …

One thing stood out amongst all the others at this afternoon event in the New Headingley Club – the sound of laughter.  Not polite, either – appreciative and joyful.  From first to last, Dave Tonge managed to coax a group of strangers to listen to him raptly, then interact with and perform to each other.

Tips on breathing, changes in voice, the use of gestures (appropriate for the age of the audience), the stance you use, using your eyes to capture and hold inclusive attention -  were all rehearsed.  The group tried telling a short story without using their hands or body movements – almost impossible.  Visualise the story you want to tell, chunk it down into comic-strip bite sizes – for if you The Narrator can ‘see’ the story then you can ensure your audience gets the picture too. And stories are pretty universal; there is not much alteration of the plotlines involved, more the adaptation of the tips above to carry the story to a mixed range of ages.

Record your story to hear it as a listener might, then refine it for pace, pitch and tone.  Write down keywords if it helps you to string it together coherently, using pauses and repeats to get the “Ooh”, the “Boo” and the “Hurrah” that you want. Above all, be yourself and share rather than perform.

Our Yarnsmith did indeed share and left a happy workshop wanting more. They got more too, as Dave went on to put his mouth where his tips were and, after tea and cake, led another session entitled Tavern Yard Tales. But that’s another story….

Our thanks to Leeds Voice Day who sponsored this event.

No comments:

Post a Comment