It was the night before Halloween, and on the surface at The Arts Bar, Liverpool looked like any other haunted party, with devils, angels, the scary and strange gathering to celebrate the spooky season. However, deep below the surface, as we pulled back the mask on the historical masonic building, a feeling of anticipation swept across faces of spectators. This small audience were led down hallways, passing photos of previous worshipful masters and into a room fit for a king. The room was covered in Egyptian style scrolls and rich golds and reds, making it the perfect backdrop for some ghostly tails. This was all brought to us by the new and exciting ‘Wing it’ impro and storytelling Theatre Company. ‘Wing it’ was founded by multi award winning actor and director, Mark Smith, who will be producing a quarterly event across the year, each with an individual theme to match the season.
Smith welcomed the audience to ‘The Bunker’ (Halloween edition) with a warm and elegant charm, introducing the structure of what was to be a fast-paced and well-crafted selection of seven stories, performed by five different storytellers. The original compilation was opened by Angie Waller, as Smith took his seat in a live foley station (live sound effects) adding to the unfolding drama with a range of additional effects, from spitting fires to slamming doors.
Waller, a seasoned performer for over 25 years, began with an interaction to the audience, asking for a job and an animal which were to be blended into this improvised but loosely arranged story. This was all whilst fighting against the sand timer, accompanied by her ukulele, and expertly weaving together the lyrical with the visual. The story culminated just in time, as the sand stopped and the show burst into life. The front row were simply amazed by Wallers’s commitment and timing.
Next up, we had a new storyteller who had taken part in Smiths storytelling course last year – Emma Reilly. Reilly did not wait around, jumping straight into a chilling tail that made you question her characters existence, as a repetitive cycle played out and the audiences were led to daunting realisation – that she was in fact, dead. Reilly managed to skilfully blend the theatrical with intricate moments, which were a credit to her writing.
Next up we had Eavan Seasman, who portrayed fantastic stage presence, as she drew the audience in with her impeccably timed delivery. The first of her two stories explored themes of acceptance, fear and otherness. Set within the fairground backdrop, the action unfolded as a former star of the circus, released into the world, as the world turned its back on the now undesirable. Much like the dying out of the famous mirages, freak-shows, and boxing booths in the 21st century. It presented the harsh reality of former glory, lost in the liminal space between old and new attractions. The rollercoaster ending had the audience gasping with a great plot shift and use of props, as we witnessed the once glorified performer indefinitely stuck in the sideshow of horrors.
Seasman’s second story, once again, had an amazing use of props, and the audience became aware of her impressive collection of Victorian dolls, and the power they held within a story. The tale followed a father and sons’ relationship, with resentment, frustration and realisation the themes throughout. Seasaman is an impressive storyteller, who is honing her craft through a specific style, and it will be interesting to watch the development of this hypnotising artist.
Next up we had Trev Flemming, who is a voice actor, improviser and writer. Flemming instantly captivated the audience, with his deep melodic tone and resonating story of his father’s wake. The story followed a dialogue between Flemming and he’s father in a lucid but touching exchange, delivering real moments of love, humour and acceptance. The audience bestowed a captivated silence, which is credit alone for Flemming’s expertly multi rolled piece. The story was beautifully written, and definitely could lend itself in a book of short stories.
Last up, we had a natural born storyteller, Munro Scott, performing two stories that were carefully structured, and used the traditional but useful power of three, hammering home comedic and terrifying moments.
This was perfectly displayed in his first story of a ghost who lived within his secret vape. The contraption had to be hidden from his wife, in fear of her judgement of his habit, especially with the new baby on the way. The ghost first appeared when he had left the room, knocking down his glass, although blame fell upon his cat. This pattern repeated, as he went on to blame it on the wind, until finally Munro decided to stick around long enough to catch the crafty ghost in the act. This playful exchange culminated in an agreement that allowed the ghost to stick around, with the promise to help with the new arrival.
Munro’s second and final story of the night centred around a mystical ring he had been given by his grandfather that was wanted by a large and gruesome beast. Once again, using the power of three to deliver the story was incredibly effective. Munro is a performer who felt at home when delivering his tales, with wide vocal range, using his large stature to portray a range of characters.
Throughout the years, I have been to a lot of storytelling evenings, and it was great to see such a difficult art form thematically structured and developed with such professionalism. The overall experience of the night left me wanting more. Wing IT theatre company and smith have produced the start of a hopeful new movement for storytellers in the city to get behind, and I very much look forward to the next edition.