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Oxford Times Preview

Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated by stories. My half- hour walk to primary school afforded me the opportunity to make up a story. Often the tale would be unfinished when I arrived, so I’d have to walk around the playground talking to myself until I discovered what happened at the end.

It was a golden age of children’s literature. Many authors drew on traditional tales as inspiration for their novels. Through them I became intrigued by folktales. In 1989 I became a storyteller. I have been riding imaginary horses for a living ever since.

My work is an ongoing attempt to answer the question, what makes a satisfying story? Why does one story stay with us, while another is forgotten in a moment? Why does the plight of a character who never existed reduce us to tears when we struggle to respond to the calamities shown us every day by the news?

In the early nineties I saw a wonderful troupe of epic singers from India. I had only the vaguest idea of the story they were telling, but the interplay between sound, silence, music, song and spoken word made the performance thrilling and filled with drama. Could I create an equivalent performance with musicians here, using European tales and music?

The result is The DEVIL’s VIOLIN. We have been touring for ten years. We’ve created 5 shows, which have toured nationally and internationally. STOLEN returns to that first question- what makes a satisfying story? The answer: take a character you like, a decent but flawed human being, give him or her a seemingly insurmountable task, and what happens? They struggle, make mistakes, find inner resources they didn’t know they had and eventually triumph. The plot curls around on itself like a Celtic knotwork pattern. Characters and ideas return in unexpected and satisfying ways.

I am not an actor. I can’t stick to a script. My musicians say they aren’t waiting for cues, but clues. Every night the story is slightly different. The acoustic of the venue, the news bulletins we have heard on the way, the audience response, all of these factors contribute to how we tell the tale.

I’m not a luddite: I love cinema and television. But there’s something magical that happens in a live performance. It is like alchemy. The teller’s performance and listener’s attention combine to create something unique and powerful.