Review by Avril Silk *****
I grew up in Bristol and am old enough to remember when the Tobacco Factory theatre was, well, a tobacco factory. My first visit to this extraordinary, dynamic venue was to see master storyteller Daniel Morden with virtuoso musicians Sarah Moody, Oliver Wilson-Dickson and Dylan Fowler. Together they are The Devil’s Violin and their latest show, ‘The Forbidden Door’, is stunning. My companion breathed one word as the capacity audience showed their appreciation. ‘Fabulous.’
I knew what to expect. Daniel’s eloquent voice, and Sarah’s expressive ‘cello, resonate deep within me, banishing the humdrum everyday world. Instead, we are transported to the magical world of the Shining King and the Glittering Queen, the youngest Princess and the Pig Prince. We hear stories within stories, like Chinese boxes, laced with tears and laughter. The paradox is that these magical tales are really our humdrum lives, wrapped in imagination and mystery.
As soon as we are forbidden to open the door, everyone knows we will. We will eat the apple, we will lift the lid. We are human and we will suffer. Our journeys will be fraught with danger and hardship. We will meet enemies; we will make friends. Sometimes they will be disguised and we will be deceived. Sometimes they help us in ways we could not have foreseen. We experience adversity and if we are wise, we call our travails adventures, singing our stories with the love, courage and defiance that redeems us. Sometimes the darkness is illuminated with lightning flashes of joy and laughter. Sometimes we spend our days in sunlit meadows and for a time, the shadows are banished, skulking on the side-lines.
Stories are powerful. They come from our transgression, consequent suffering and our search for love and home. Someone once told me the Mustard-seed story when I was experiencing terrible, heart-wracking loss. I found some comfort there and have never forgotten it. In my time I have told it to others. The Devil’s Violin reminds us of the eternal truths of being human. We are flawed, imperfect, broken vessels. Leonard Cohen sang,
There is a crack, a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in
When it is our turn to face the darkness, we ‘long for love and light’. Leonard Cohen again. His voice and words, like Daniel’s, also resonate deeply within me, connecting me, as I surrender, with what it is to fall from grace and long for Paradise.
Once upon a time I was a girl growing up in Bristol. No. Once upon a time I was a Rainbow Princess who lived in a mythical city. No. Once upon a time I was the solemn, oldest sister in a family that lived on the edge of a terrible abyss… We can all do this, but The Devil’s Violin does it superbly. This performance is sublime. The storytelling and musicianship is of the highest quality and the stories echo long after the lights go down. They are on tour now. Don’t miss them.