Last night we were at Pocklington School's Tom Stoppard Centre for the Society for Story Telling shadow puppet and storytelling performance.
The last time we were at the Tom Stoppard Centre it was for the distinctly strange Love Actually style St Mary & St Joseph Christmas play. As a quick aside the comment for that post is lovely:
I don't believe it. The "Tom Stoppard Centre". I was an inmate at Pocklington School for ten years in the 70s. We had to study Stoppard plays, and I remember going on a school trip when I was about 15 to see 'Jumpers'. I suspect none of our English teachers (we called them ‘masters’) had read the play beforehand which is, er., rather explicit (we enjoyed it - the adults just looked embarrassed). No one ever mentioned he was an ex-pupil. I’ve long believed there was a conspiracy of silence. Stoppard left school early, and the rumour I heard was that he deliberately got himself thrown out because he hated the place so much, and hence he was never ‘spoken of’. I don't know if that is true. I only heard the story from another pupil when I was in the sixth form. It’s hilarious to think the school now has a centre dedicated to Tom Stoppard.
Anyway, last night we were dragged along because Molly's school had been doing some workshops during the week to make puppets for the shadow puppet theatre. And as an end of term treat we were invited along to see their show.
I think that most parents were under the same misguided impression that we were under. This was going to be a lovely end to the term and a nice way to see the pupils do a performance.
Unfortunately I think we got suckered into attending a storytelling event by dangling the chance to see our children perform.
The thing started at 8 and went on till 9:30. Which was late enough given that the children are all 7/8/9. But by the time we got up to leave it felt like we'd been in there for 4 hours.
The night went something like this:
Introductory storytelling bit by one of the societies members. Pretty dull. But we were all fresh at this point and just listened and clapped appreciably.
Then onto part one of the puppet theatre. Both Louise and I had spoken to Molly's teacher about it and we'd come away with the impression that she thought it was going to be an absolute disaster. They hadn't had much time to rehearse, they'd been given loose scripts which had then been changed and overall she didn't feel that confident. Which was fine, this just meant that we were sat there expecting a hilarious disaster.
But it wasn't. It was actually really good. The children performed for about 10 minutes behind white screens waving their puppets enthusiastically at pretty much the right moments.
But it was too short. That was only part one. The other school involved were going to do part two.
But not before we were treated to 5 separate performance readings by 4 different story tellers.
Original boring bloke was back.
Followed by older Yorkshire storyteller, sort of like Mike Harding, but not as funny.
After that it was the turn of the two youngsters. The first one was pretty good, he told a 10 minutes story, started badly; badly paced, too much pausing, but once he got his confidence he told a great variation on Jack & the Beanstalk. His Jack goes to market with the cow, gets sidetracked. Cow is fed booze by the local drunk, falls over and dies. Jack skins cow, goes to tanner and gets paid for hide. Back to cow, who isn't dead, just sleeping. Has hangover and no skin. Brilliantly he didn't skimp on the gross out parts, something the children really enjoyed.
The second young storyteller should have been bottled off the minute he set foot on stage, if only I'd have had a bottle. Up he bounced, 7 foot tall, mop of standing up frizzy blonde hair and barefooted. Too much Tolkien in his younger days and far to much of the wordier, troll and faerie infested words of Neil Gaiman recently.
Then back to the old Yorkshire bloke for his humorous tales of why men and women are different.
Then the second part of the puppet theatre, performed by the other school.
Meanwhile Molly's school (and most of the parents) are getting restless and working out whether they can make it to an exit un-noticed.
Shadow theatre finishes to tumultuous applause. Like Christmas, more out of relief than enjoyment it has to be said.
At which point the storytellers get up and give us a few more stories. You can almost hear the crowd giving up and losing the will to live at this point.
It was an interesting night though. The storytelling idea is a great one and I really enjoyed at least one of the storytellers. But I really can't shake off the feeling we were lured there under false pretenses.