I’m happy to admit that my knowledge of Norse mythology is patchy, but becoming more familiar with what was advertised as a fusion of "ballad song, galdr chant and ancient Eddic poetry" seemed like an opportunity worth taking up. However, I found myself quite surprised to witness a spectacle lacking in nearly all aspects of theatrical accomplishment.
Turned what might have been a three-course meal into pottage
The basic set up of Creation Song Norse Myths Storytelling is a one-woman show, where a storyteller of old takes their rapt audience through some of the foundational stories of an ancient culture. Alison Williams-Bailey as our ‘Skald’ is dressed in flowing robes and carries an imposing antler-topped staff, making her initially convincing. At the show’s beginning, she made an impressive entrance, singing and moving slowly through the audience to take her place.
After this though, the problems began. The stories themselves were difficult to follow, with an unrelenting repetition of the phrases "and then", "and so", followed by the introduction of another character and/or another ancillary detail. This detracted from the thrust of the stories and turned what might have been a three-course meal into pottage. At the level of narrative, this rapid conveyor belt of information was largely lost on me and, I fear, lost on the children the show was partly aimed at.
There were problems with execution too. With frequent mistakes in delivery, the performer often backed up and repeated, introduced accidental spoonerisms or glossed over lines they could not remember with clumsy approximations. Perhaps even worse, the performer on occasion utterly broke from character when things didn’t go according to plan, mumbling ‘need to get that right’ or signalling to a member of the audience with a sternly pointed finger that the door to the theatre needed closing.
Admittedly, there were attempts at humour with anachronous mentions of "steam trains", "estate agents" and jokes about the puppets Sooty and Sweep. If all the references were contemporary, then this breaking of historical conceit might have worked to create a knowing counterpoint between the world of the storyteller and our own. But mentioning 80s ITV puppets and locomotives that fell out of use by the 60s left me wondering what world the performer thought their audience was living in. The result of all these issues was that we never got to know who the character of the storyteller was or was meant to be. And, if you can’t believe in the storyteller, it is much harder to believe in the story.
Overall, this show is in desperate need of a writer and director to achieve variety and clarity at the level of narrative, as well as consistency and purpose at the level of performance.