Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘Beulah Candappa’

Storytelling Starters ~ Props 1: inviting response

Saturday, January 19th, 2019

Last week brought lovely comments on my thoughts about audience. So this week – and over one or two following weeks as well – I’ve decided to write about props. It’s a subject that interests me a lot. Why use a prop or props? Do they help or hinder a storytelling or indeed the storyteller? How many props might one use in a session and how is best to deploy them? And where might one obtain them?

Props stimulate questions:

Placed on a theatre stage, props can intrigue the audience. Props arouse subliminal questions. Why is that object there? Who is going to use it and when and why? But storytelling is generally less theatrical. So why would a storyteller make use of a prop or props? An immediate answer has to do with the very nature of a prop. A stick, a stone, a badge, a flower: a prop is some kind of object that has been selected with a view to intriguing or informing the audience. Perhaps it is itself going to be the subject of a story. Perhaps its colour or shape is going to be significant. Perhaps it’s a matter of who owned it, where it came from. Props stimulate questions. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Getting Participation/ 4

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

The storyteller, Beulah Candappa, said it brilliantly: ‘Storytelling is the art of time and silence.’ How right she was. Time is especially important with young children. Making time, taking time, valuing the time that’s taken – all helps with encouraging participation. And in that connection my tip this week is about getting participation through the way you use words.

Parents, teachers, Nursery Nurses and others have often commented to me that when I’m telling a story, it may take twenty minutes, but when they retell it, it takes just three. So what’s the difference? I’m certainly not claiming that all stories should take twenty minutes. What I do say is that, with young children, the story should feel long enough. Long enough for the children to relax and get into it. Long enough for them to feel they’ve inhabited it and been on a journey with it. In this respect, it’s my belief that an enormous difference is made by the words you use and how you use them.

The Naughty Little Mouse:

Yesterday, for instance, I was telling the story of The Naughty Little Mouse. You can find a full version in my book, Stories for Young Children and how to tell them! where it’s also on the accompanying CD). I was originally told this little folktale by a woman from India. In my subsequent retellings, I found I was adapting it more and more for children in the UK.

In The Naughty Little Mouse, the little mouse first manages to inveigle a shop-keeper into giving her a piece of cloth. In a second shop, she gets the cloth made into a hat. In a third, she gets the hat decorated with braid and sparkly sequins. Finally, finding herself in Buckingham Palace, she succeeds in getting to sit on the Queen’s throne for one whole day before, at the end of the story, she goes back home. By the time she arrives, she’s exhausted.

Cloth? Throne? Exhausted? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Body stories

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

Only a week to go. The Olympics are about to begin, London is getting ever more crowded and already it’s becoming quite a bodily skill to manoeuvre a way through the crowds. Meantime, newspapers and TV are full of the physical skills of the athletes. There’s also lots about the psychology of competing and the determination and persistence involved in increasing bodily prowess, let alone the mental skills required to stay focused and cool. It’s absorbing.

I won’t be going to the games myself. I’ll be watching on TV at home while devoting my mind to thinking about physical skills and bodily parts. For that’s my theme for the next few weeks.

I’m starting today with one of my favourite stories. I call it Five Chinese Brothers. It’s a marvellous story for adults to tell and children to hear. Like the extendable legs in the story, it somehow seems able to stretch up the age-range from children of about five years old to children of eleven or twelve. And as you’ll see when you read the story, extendable legs are just one of the story’s magical powers. But first, here’s a bit of background about how I first came to hear this tale.

Five Chinese Brothers – some background

I first heard the story from Beulah Candappa, the inspirational storyteller from Burma who was one of the first full-time storytellers I got to know in London during the 1980s when storytelling as an art was reviving.

Beulah was the daughter of a headteacher and chieftain. She’d turned from teaching to full-time storytelling because she so strongly believed in the necessity for people to have stories. Stories had been part of her own life since childhood. She was generous in the way she shared them. Always calm and serene in her manner, she would carry with her baskets of fascinating folk objects and set these out in the course of her tellings, creating a wonderful theatre of the imagination.

Beulah has influenced me a lot. Once in a conversation on the phone, she memorably described storytelling to me as ‘the art of time and silence’. And when she wrote a piece for the booklet that accompanied By Word of Mouth, my Channel 4 TV series on storytelling that was shown in 1990, it was enticingly entitled, A Crackle of Excitement.

That’s Beulah – a wonderful combination of quiet serenity and an electric buzz of excitement. I think of her whenever I think of this tale, which I’ve probably adapted in various ways in the course of dozens of tellings over the years.

Five Chinese Brothers – the story (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ The Magic of Objects 4

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Magic Music-makers

The strangest sound-maker in my Storytelling Bag is what I call my Magic Music-maker. I put a lot of reliance on it: it can draw intrigued attention from adults as well as children, watching eyes as well as listening ears.

Ten-pence worth of magic

My original Magic Music-maker – a bendy, double-ended, pink plastic pipe – was bought for ten-pence from a box of sales items outside a Paper Chase shop at Waterloo Station. With caricature faces at either end, I think it might have been a Mr Men product. Whatever made me pick it up and blow into one end I have no idea. As soon as I did, I realised what interesting sounds it might make with a bit of experimentation. I took it home and the cat went wild as I practised, gradually extending the range of sound I could get. Eventually when I brought it into my storytelling, it got people sitting up and taking notice as soon as I began to blow.

Then one day in Cardiff, (more…)