Fable

A charming storytelling piece that fuses spoken word and music, Fable from the Flanagan Collective charts the story of ‘J’. In her late 20s, J dreams of becoming an astronaut when she grows up, but her careworn dreams seem further and further from becoming a reality.

This is a show with heart and soul and with storytelling capable of transporting us with the power of language and music.

Despite the weak wall of her heart – what her mother poetically describes as a “magic heart” – J has defied the odds by remaining alive, but there are other odds she has yet to tackle. She’s not an astronaut, but a teacher of physics. Her life is one of constraint that’s about to change.

The show takes place in the anatomy lecture room of Summerhall with the house lights still up, so it felt almost like a classroom was being taken over. Performer Veronica Hare first appears from the audience, delivering high energy spoken word containing aspirational instructions (“Steal from Tesco!”), begging us to put down our phones, look up, and live. It’s a recurring refrain in this piece, furthered by the character of Blair (played by Jim Harbourne), who is inspired by a real life tree surgeon in northern Scotland. As the story unfolds, we move through spoken word to scenes of dialogue and songs.

Recognising the constraints of the space, I was initially charmed by the lack of set and the lo-fi approach. A computer, microphone, amp, guitar and projector are all used well in the storytelling but there’s space for a little more attention to detail. The white sheet covering the lecture hall’s blackboard was somewhat distracting as it didn’t provide an even space on to which the images could be projected. The use of the slide projector added a lovely nostalgic feel but at times caused a break in momentum as one of the two performers needed to operate it when it could have been better done by someone else.

Fortunately, both performers are wonderful and make up for these slips. Harbourne’s music, too, underscores the rhythm of the piece and includes live looping and stunning vocals. Hare’s storytelling is utterly engaging as she draws in each member of the audience with direct eye contact.

A quote from astrophysicist Carl Sagan is read during the performance, describing the earth as ‘a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam’. This kind of delicacy runs through the piece; this is a show with heart and soul and with storytelling capable of transporting us with the power of language and music.

Reviews by Emma Gibson

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

J runs so fast she bursts into a million tiny pieces, her atoms unknitting themselves and spreading across the universe. Blair stands on a broken pier with a glass of white wine in one hand and a pint of Guinness in the other, looking up at the stars. Following folk-hit hit Beulah (***** Scotsman) and Babylon (‘Ruddy gorgeous’ Guardian) we return with a tale of freedom, immortality and planting trees for those who come after us. A show wound from spoken word, storytelling, soaring live music and good, honest heart and soul. Thanks for having us.