Thursday, January 20, 2011

True Stories Told Live

It's a nice little idea, in an upstairs room of a pub, five people get up and each get 10 minutes to tell a true story to a bunch of strangers. Anyone can have a go, although the storytellers are all vetted by the organisers beforehand, and the monthly event in Chapel Market is already so popular you have to apply for your free ticket weeks in advance. Created by David Hepworth (who launched such magazines as Just Seventeen, Q, Empire, Heat) and hosted by Canadian actor Kerry Shale, the night can't help but lean towards the mediaocracy, despite being ostensibly an egalitarian affair. Mr Shale twice referenced a previous storyteller who'd been in the army in Iraq as evidence that this wasn't just another chance for Islington media folk to yawn at each other, but the show I saw included two novelists, an Australian stand-up and the agony aunt from Cosmo, so they've got more work to be doing on that front. They are apparently hoping for a wider range of storytellers, but in any case everyone was good, the crowd were keen and it was a nice way to spend the evening.

The agony aunt was Irma Kurtz, who had told me beforehand in that quite unabashed way of Americans that she was incredibly nervous, and then got up and was slick as anything. She told a well-crafted tale from her childhood that ended with the line "and ten years later I looked at the signature on the piece of paper she'd given me and it said: Mae West!" Author Anthony McGowan told a nicely grim tale from his Leeds upbringing about shooting a dog with a crossbow, and ending by saying that he always puts dogs in his stories, and now you know why. Last up was author and journalist Alex Preston, an Oxbridge type who got the crowd onside by being self-depreciating and then told a gap yah story that was even more privileged than I'd have pinned on him at my most prejudiced, but which abruptly ended on a close shave with death that was quite poignant, for a posh boy. And we reckon his brother was Preston out of Big Brother. So a real celeb, after all.

I signed up for it at the end of the night. Of course I did, I couldn't resist a crowd that size being forced to listen to me. But whereas at the start of the night I'd have happily got up and spieled it, after watching the show the shadow of "wanting to be good" started to rear its ugly head. I tried out a tale on my cycle home and found that after 15 minutes I still hadn't got to the event at the heart of the story, so, alas, I might have to practise after all.