QUEEN'S ROAD: It was an Indian who inspired performance storyteller Emily Parrish to take up the narrative arts seriously. Now she is in the country for the second time, all set to entertain Bangaloreans this evening.
As is the norm, Parrish will tell a ‘weird mix’ of stories at her show here, following a workshop. So there will be a clutch of tales about animals, something about Russian witchcraft and a couple from Indian folklore and even stories like the one that the spider spins from Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys.
The now curator of ScandalNights at the Tom Thumb Theatre (a vibrant monthly storytelling club in the UK) was first introduced to performance storytelling while pursuing her Masters in Drama at the University of Kent, where she took up a module on storytelling.
However, she has been listening to and telling stories ever since she was a child. “I was lucky, my parents told me stories. And I have a younger brother and sister, so I told them stories,” she says.
But it was when she saw Indian storyteller Vayu Naidu perform that she thought to herself, ‘Oh, this is what I want to do!’ “She was on stage, she had no props, no costumes, and she was telling a story,” she recalls, still mesmerised.
In 2008, after completing apprenticeship with the Vayu Naidu Company as an education officer, she was in India for eight months, working with an art school near Kanchipuram. And she’s thrilled to be back in the country as part of British Council’s The Art of Storytelling India Tour 2015. “It’s great to be back,” she says.
The birth of Ganesh is her favourite story, and her favourite character is Durga. The story, she finds, like most that the trove of Indian mythology has to offer, vibrant and colourful. “There’s so much love, humour and rhythm in the language,” she says; and in the goddess, Parrish finds a reflection of the human.
“I love how Durga can change into so many goddesses so quickly — as Parvati, she’s Shiva’s wife one minute and in the next, she transforms into Kali. I think people are rather like that; they behave differently in different situations,” she says.
While the art form, popular in rural as well as tribal culture, is catching on in cities like Bengaluru, Parrish feels that it is necessary for audiences to understand that hearing a story and reading a story can be two very different experiences. “When you’re telling a story, it’s very alive. It changes, every time, based on the audience’s response,” she says as she signs off.
Emily Parrish’s storytelling performance at The British Library, Kasturba Cross Road today at 6 pm. Entry is free.