Monday, 24 August 2009

Moths in the Spiegeltent

Saturday night in the Spiegeltent…

The wine was poured and all seats taken. It was finally about to happen: one of the events in this year’s programme that the staff were especially excited about. The Moth. Live storytelling. All the way from New York. European premiere. That’s the basic information, but if you haven’t heard of The Moth then a quick Google search will provide you with no less than 2,690,000 hits (although admittedly, some of them may refer to the insect).

Novelist George Dawes Green, who recently published his thriller Ravens, founded this cult gathering back in 1997. The idea is simple and all of us will have done it in one way or another: a cosy night with friends, sitting around a fire for example (or in George’s case, perching on a porch in the deep south of Georgia) telling each other (more or less) spellbinding stories.

Having relocated to New York, George missed these moments. So he decided to organise regular storytelling get-togethers which soon became so popular that George was forced to move them from his living room to a much larger venue. Since then, hundreds of storytellers – ranging from Moby and Ethan Hawke to Richard Price (one of the genius heads behind The Wire, due to appear in Charlotte Square this Friday night) – have shared their stories. There are only two rules: the stories must be no longer than ten minutes and must be true(ish).

Opening storyteller Jessi Klein recalled a trip to Disney World, when she nearly ended up bedding a person (man or woman?) dressed as a chipmunk at her sister’s wedding. Very much like stand-up comedy, it seemed a good warm up for George’s own story from his early adulthood spent in the Deep South. Next up the audience laughed at Jeff Solomon’s hilarious story of his Bar Mitzvah, complicated by his rowing divorced parents being forced into the same room.

Last, but for me the stand out performer of the night, was Edgar Oliver with a story from his remarkable childhood which constantly ranged from highly comic to deeply tragic. Sitting close to the stage I could see the genuine emotion in his face. He had perhaps the most amazing voice I have ever heard, deep yet gentle with exaggerated prolonged vowel sounds, and I was truly mesmerized by his performance. You can imagine how disappointed I was to discover the next day that his play at The Traverse had already finished its run. If you missed The Moth there is however some consolation. You can subscribe to their podcast at Happy listening!

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