Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Round and round

Grim news from Paris. What is to be done? What can we do? Whatever it is – stop the warring in Syria? –  we agreed this morning that one thing we have to do is make the best we can of our time. So here is the blog I’d prepared for today.

Round and Round:

P1070114Odd how themes that come up in a life can come back, round and round, circling in on themselves. Black people who’ve changed the world by challenging people’s perceptions have been a recent theme in this blog. This week the theme returned several times – and, in one case, in a most unexpected way.

Last week I’d mentioned that, after  retelling here that wonderful story I’d first heard told some years ago by an Aboriginal Australian storyteller – hands, legs and head finally working together –  Meg from Brisbane had written in to let us know that she’d heard this story told by the very woman who created it, Maureen Watson. Evidently, a specific point in Maureen Watson’s mind had been for it to help teach children about the importance of working together. Then during this week came another follow-up message from Meg. She wrote again to say that Maureen Watson had died in 2009 and that information about her life can be seen on the following link: Having now read the link, I can thoroughly agree with Meg: ‘She was an amazing activist and advocate.’

Then on Thursday at the theatre, a world away from Maureen Watson but in spirit very close, I met another emanation of Francis Barber, the Jamaican freed slave I wrote about last week who’d become manservant and companion to Samuel Johnson in 18th century London. We’d gone to the theatre to see Mr Foote’s Other Leg, a play about the real-life actor and impresario, Samuel Foote, who’d lived and worked in London in the same era as Johnson. For me, a main reason for wanting to go to this play was that Simon Russell Beale, one of my most admired actors because of how he makes his parts so real, was playing the part of Foote. Another attraction was that the play was set in Georgian London (why has Georgian London become a theme that’s popping up all over the place in London at present?).

And then there on stage, now playing the part of Mr Foote’s barber and dresser, was none other than a character called Frank Barber, a version of the real Francis Barber but doing a job the real Francis Barber doesn’t seem to have done in real life. Yet the words Frank Barber is given to say in the play do reflect much of what is known about Francis Barber’s character for in the play Frank Barber speaks movingly about the pains and sadnesses of being a slave and also about the huge transition that became possible for him in being brought to London and, as he saw it, coming into freedom.

The play was hilarious and tragic too. I shall be obtaining and reading the book that the author of the play, Ian Kelly, previously published on the same theme.

Monkey 23 May 2And now for something completely different:

Circle upon circle, twist upon twist! Next week I think I’ll probably be reporting on something very different indeed, namely the storytelling I’ll be doing at a special occasion. The occasion will be the 7th birthday of the daughter of one of my four god-daughters. I’m preparing already. Birthday storytelling is not something I’ve done before – to be honest, I’ve avoided it. But this is special because, for me, it can become a special gift to the family concerned.

So I’ve already decided that my story will probably be Beautiful Catharinella, a story I found ages ago in a book called Grimms’ Other Tales by Ruth Michaelis-Jena and Arthur Ratcliff. The story has lots of magic in it, it will surely remind the party guests of other stories they know such as that of Rumpelstiltskin and it has the advantage that its heroine’s name starts with a hard C like that of the birthday girl herself.

I’ve also  already started preparing the magic story-bags (four items in each) to help the 16 little girls who’ll be at the party to make their own bit of story magic after my story is finished. But more of all that next week.

P.S. This week, my photos are of a couple of the objects that might find a place in those story-bags.


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