Society for Storytelling’s featured teller

Posted: March 22nd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Amy Bell from The Society for Storytelling interviewed me, and you can read about it here. It was really nice to see the SfS giving memberships to winners at Young Storyteller of the Year as well, that sort of support is grand.

For those of you who missed Young Storyteller of the Year, you can catch up videos of them telling here. I saw Ed Croft at Story Nights Torriano a few days after he was commended on his performance at YSotY. That night saw myself, Ed and Wilf Mertens all in the same venue, and it was powerful to be a part of the progression of artists who have had been catapulted by the competition into the world of storytelling. Ed was on form that night, he told a version of Mr Fox which I rate as one of the best I’ve ever heard.

I’m going to include the complete copy of the interview I did for Amy in the comments, just in case there’s any other details here of interest!

Gilgamesh receives epic nominations!

Posted: August 8th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Simon Heywood and I are really excited because our collaborative performance of Gilgamesh has received nominations for the British Awards for Storytelling Excellence.

I’m not sure yet if we’ve made the nomination shortlist and I’ll keep you informed. Suffice to say that I am chuffed to bits that we’ve been nominated at all. You can read more about BASE here. (I’m particularly happy about the gender balance across the Best Newcomer category!)

Any to celebrate Gilgamesh getting this recognition, Simon and I would like to share some of the great things people have said about the show at our gigs over the past few years. Thank you for your kind words.

Stories from the Tree of Life at the Huddersfield Literature Festival, Lawrence Batley Theatre
14 March 2009

It made me laugh and cry. The combination of storytellers was brilliant.

Poetical, lyrical, musical, drew us slowly back in time ‘til, dreaming of death, worms, sadness, sorrow, it was difficult to break back into the 21st century.

Two scintillating performers. FAB!

Spell-binding. Beautifully told. Great idea to create something so special. Good for the soul!

I was very impressed with both the speakers, I thought it was an excellent idea to have 2 narrators as it gave an extra dimension to the story. I also thought it helped having separate voices for characters.
I really enjoyed the humour the story had, it made it feel as though it had the audience in mind and not just a story for the sake of it, it made the experience a lot more personal.
I really enjoyed the performance as it makes a lovely change from just sitting home watching telly.

Thank you very much for the excellent performance tonight, I think it has a very authentic feel, very much like stories originally told. It was told extremely well, with a lot of enthusiasm.

The performance transported us to the shores of the Tigris and held us there, following the deeds of Gilgamesh, spellbound.

Absorbing tale, extremely well told.

Fabulous performance. Vivid. Graphic. A true epic.

Epic storytelling—totally engrossed. Enthralling, and captivating. Beautiful language and beautifully told.

A wonderful rendition of the Sumerian Epic. Storytelling of this quality is few and far between, capturing the imagination and evoking the spirit… …Very interesting, grabbed my attention, really, really enjoyed it!

Mesmerising—beautiful diction and delivery.

Thank you.

Explore York, York Libraries
11 September 2010

This was amazing—the most exciting, dramatic storytelling I’ve seen at the library.

Fantastic evening of storytelling…enthralling way of introducing the written word, you are to be congratulated on this evening.

The actor with blonde hair and beard had the most remarkably resonant voice (I’ve ever heard!). Loved the scene where the actors went head-to-head.

Both storytellers were highly convincing in such different ways—a good contrast. Just like the brilliant contrast in the story itself between the gritty and the transcendental.

Enjoying it very much. Grateful that you have put it on. I thought about the art of storytelling—the structure and narrative and the technique of delivery, and go off next to think about the significance of the tale as a whole from the understanding of our cultural development up to the present day.

Absolutely loved it.

Amazingly inspiring; it makes me realise that good storytelling doesn’t need ‘theatre’ to bring forward your imagination. I’ll definitely look out for other opportunities to enjoy storytelling hopefully in the York library.

Brilliant storytellers—they complemented each other and had the audience spell-bound. I found it magical not having heard the story before!

Excellent—we really enjoyed it!

Brilliant—never heard the story and always found the book a bit daunting. Alive, vibrant, sexy and wonderful.

The storytellers are both excellent—with clear diction and marvellous expression! They had me gripped. Brilliant use of the imagination.

I’ve been to quite a lot of storytelling events, and these two really understood the art. Won over my partner who wasn’t sure what it would be like. I will certainly read the Epic of Gilgamesh. So…my opinions weren’t changed at all, but my expectations were exceeded. So much depth was crammed into the story.

Brilliant, both guys have my vote for having the X factor in storytelling.

Off the Shelf Literature Festival, Montgomery Hall, Sheffield
20 October 2011

Cracking, with appropriate crazy measurements. Huge evocative delivery.

Great job guys! Thanks for bringing us this brilliant story which I’d otherwise never have heard.

Fascinating! I can understand George Smith’s actions!


A unique experience which I enjoyed—brilliant energy from Tim + Simon

A huge feat of recital and memory from two stupendous storytellers. I’m now motivated to go and read it!

Fantastic, super-engaging!

Amazing! Really impressive and engrossing

Really interesting. Very entertaining. Time flew by.

In which Tim mostly talks about robots…

Posted: June 1st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

Slowly but surely I’m building the Booking Information page. There should now be details up for my performance of The Court of the Queen of Claywood Flats. It is one of my favourite shows and I’m hoping that I’ll still be able to tour it for years to come.

On an unrelated note, I’ve been thinking about robots a lot lately. They have a seminal place in my love of stories dating back to the letters my step-father wrote to me as a child. I was young when my mother remarried. As an adult I wonder what it must have been like for my step-father to fall for a woman who came with a small, ticklish, sickly, know-it-all son attached. He moved away for a few months at the start of a new job, living in a bedsit while we sorted out the process of moving to join him. These were tentative times, early in our relationship, and there are few roadmaps written on how you’re meant to fashion a father-son bond.

I had given him a lego spaceman and robot to keep him company at work. He wrote me stories, the adventures that he’d overheard the spaceman dictating to his companion. I was too young to read his handwriting, which being “joined-up” seemed to hardly resemble the letters I was learning. My mother read them aloud to me instead. Now, as an adult, I haul them out from under my bed and what strikes me most is the gentleness in them.

I don’t normally tell stories from my own life or experiences, but this little exchange between myself and my step-dad forms a nice introduction to a tale I tell about the museum he worked in. The story will feature in my upcoming show Re-branding Beelzebub TM, which I’m hoping to tour in 2013. The show brings together of a pack of urban devil stories that have slithered their way into my repertoire without any sort of intent on my part, and I’ll try and keep you up to date here on the show’s progress.

But back to robots. Has anyone seen Richard Sargent’s Where’s Wall-E? picture that’s doing the rounds on facebook? It’s a great medley of popular robots. Enjoy it. See how many of them you remember. I’d like to put a shout out, though, to two of my favourite synthetic creations that didn’t make it onto Sargent’s image.

One is the incredible The One Electonic, or Mr T.O.E., from Evan Dahm’s Riceboy webcomic. This humanoid machine is a trench-coat wearing, hard smoking, film noir bad-ass. The One Electronic is on a quest to find the fulfiller of an ancient prophecy. He’s made a deal (possibly with God,) that as long as he keeps on the quest he is effectively immortal, but that as soon as he abandons the quest he’ll die. Riceboy is gorgeous and I particularly like the art for The One Electronic, whose face shows occasional images like a TV set hunting for an analogue signal. Furthermore, Riceboy is finished, a feature I usually approve of in a webcomic. The ending seemed a bit abrupt to me, but that hasn’t put me off T.O.E. and I hope you’ll be just as impressed by him as well. First page is right here.

The second robot I want to present to you all is Navvy Jim. He could never have made Sargent’s poster because he only ever appeared in text, as a part of the bizarre but wondrous world of Jenna Moran’s Hitherby Dragons. Hitherby Dragons is likely to be the subject of a whole blog post from me at some point, when I can fathom sufficient hyperbole to begin to describe it. It is, in its way and as far as I’m aware, the single greatest work ever composed in the English language. It is also flawed, inaccessable, geeky, monstrously vast, unfinished and very hard to recommend to people. However, a great taste of the epic is a short series of three linked stories written in May 2006 called The Dynamite Trilogy. Navvy Jim is the eponymous star of the first part, he is a Rock-Paper-Scissors playing robot so good at the game that he always wins. Always. In this short series, Moran captures the beautiful, alien and compassionate quality of the impossible mechanical being. He turns up in the third part as well, where he is awesome.

Anyway, that’s enough about robots and that’s all from me for now. Him downstairs and I need to have a long chat about this show we seem to be crafting together. Until next time!

What’s been keeping Tim Ralphs busy?

Posted: March 29th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Things have been pretty quiet around here. I’ve finally got around to putting a show description up under the “Booking information” page. You can see that here.

This year I’ve got some crazy storytelling projects on the go. I’ve started running lectures and seminars for Sheffield University in the use of narrative techniques for presenting research. They are aimed at Phd students and early careers researchers, and thus far it’s been really good to share my passion with people looking to share their passions.

I’m also involved in a project to learn every story from The Pentamerone in order. It’s a feat of memory indeed! You can keep up with my progress on Twitter, @TimRalphs and there’ll probably be a show based on The Tale of Tales coming out in 2013.

Lastly, I’m working on a very secret project that has me getting up at six in the morning. It’s too soon to share exactly what that is, but I’m really excited!

Vicky Ellis reviews “From the Odd” at Lancaster Litfest

Posted: November 14th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | No Comments »

Here is a review of From the Odd at Lancaster Litfest by Vicky Ellis of Lancashire Writing Hub. It was a pleasure to perform next to Joanne Blake again, who I’ve not seen in ages. Enjoy reading!

Audience comments from Larmer Tree Festival

Posted: August 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

I’ve just had a particularly moving e-mail from someone who saw my Queen of Claywood Flats show around the fire at Larmer Tree Festival. It was a wonderful environment to tell in and I’m pleased they found the story to be fitting for the space.

“I really wanted to let you know how much me and my entire party enjoyed your fireside storytelling at the Larmer tree. It was a brilliant and surprising piece of truly gifted and skilful entertainment. I’ve never had the privilege to have seen your storytelling before nor very much of the art-form at all, to be honest, but we were all totally blown away. Not one stumble, not one hesitation, always on the move around the fire so that everyone was able to hear and a brilliant physicality that really brought the geography and the characters to life. And that’s before one even contemplates the intricate Russian doll architecture of your story within a story within a story, a magnificent timeless mythic epic tale. It was totally absorbing. You made that Saturday night a really special occasion and I am sure that the rest of your fireside listeners felt the same. It was abundantly clear that they were all clearly as captivated as we were.”

Review: The Nothing Show

Posted: August 4th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

I was at Larmer Tree Festival telling stories. It was magical, but I’m not here to tell you about that.

I’m here to tell you about Stewart Wright’s “The Nothing Show”, a half-hour performance piece that was so good I saw it twice.

It’s hard to describe the piece without spoilers. It’s a mime, the solo performer simply enacts getting up in the morning and getting ready to go out. Wright doesn’t speak, though he does make sound effects. That’s all. The physicality, the facial expressions, the creation and exploration of an imaginary geography, the skills Wright demonstrates are amazing. I was enthralled at how he was able to portray so much and get his audience so emotionally invested in a character whilst apprently doing so little. But to understand the appeal of The Nothing Show, you have to step back from the moment by moment joy of Wright’s corporeal mime and see the piece as a whole.

For the last hundred years the public whiteface of mime has been one of elaborate, formal gesture. It’s been one of talented street performance. It’s been impressive and technical but it hasn’t always been moving. It wasn’t always like that. The Mummers plays, for example, were about telling a story through an interesting medium, and Wright is re-exploring exactly that effect in his performance. The Nothing Show portrays a character who is a charming, sympathetic and believable individual. It shares the narrative of the compounded difficulties of getting ready to go out in the morning, underpinned with the mime’s craving for self-expression and freedom from the tyranny of the mundane. It features all the hallmarks of great storytelling composition: Reincorporation, escalation, premise and so on.

The result is a triumph. The Nothing Show connects to its audience in a way that formal mime can not, and it does it by embracing narrative.

Go and see it.

Storytelling featured on Ideas Tap

Posted: June 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | No Comments »

Recently, I was interviewed by Kirstie Swain of Ideas Tap on the subject of Storytelling. The resulting article has been published and, along with my ramblings, there’s some good stuff from storytellers and people working in storytelling across the country.

Read it here!

Oh and she doesn’t get credit on the site, but it’s worth a shout out that the picture at the top of the article was taken by Erin Snyder at Dreamfired Storynights in Brigsteer.

Audience comments from Dreamfired Storynights

Posted: June 2nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

I’ve just had back the audience feedback from the telling I gave at Dreamfired Storynights. I told From the Odd, which I’m quite proud of as a collection. (One day I’ll tell you the story of how that show came to be written.) Anyway, I don’t have an easy way of thanking the listeners for all their kind words, so I’ll do it here. Thank you, it means a lot!

Here are the kind words in question:

“Really enjoyed Tim Ralphs. Funniest stories yet! Liked the audience involvement”

“Fantastic night, thought Tim was brilliant – loved how the stories interweaved, I was transfixed!”

“Brilliant – so glad we made the effort to get here”

“Excellent – really enjoyed Tim’s surreal, quirky, funny and moving performance”

“Brilliantly weaved and enthralling stories. Very entertaining indeed!”

The Skeletal Village, (2/3)

Posted: May 30th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

One of the things I want to do here, on this site, is talk openly about the practice and craft of storytelling. I am at that stage in my development where I’m shedding the mantle of being a young storyteller, of being an emergent artist, and looking to stand amongst my peers in my own right. From where I am it’s painfully obvious to me that there’s a lack of resources available for people looking to grow as tellers. So I’ll be taking this opportunity to talk a little about the lessons I’ve learned, as much to get them straight in my head as anything else. If it leads to dialogue, or if anyone else learns anything, then that’s brilliant!

I won’t start with performance or language, these things aren’t my forte. To begin with I intend to put together a series of brief essays on the subject of crafting, of structuring, of putting stories together. These are lessons that are important, especially to someone looking to work as a teller professionally, because they ensure that our repertoires are really our own, that we know our material, that we are bringing stories back to the village to share and that we are serving them up in new, engaging, relevant ways.

I can’t remember from whom I first heard the metaphor, Ben Lehman probably. When you find a story in a collection or summarised on Wikipedia or the like, you find its bones. Written down, raggedly, scratched in the dirt. Brief and pointless and dead. But these stories are incredibly important to us. If we find them preserved in this ragged, skeletal fashion, rather than hearing them whole and vital from other tellers, then that means they may be missing from the collected canon of tales in circulation round the village. We have an obligation to perform a little necromancy.

So the craft of storytelling is the art of putting those bones together, of wrapping them in flesh, of making them come alive, dance and entrance the listeners. It may be as light as giving proper emphasis to some parts of the story in order to put a pulse into the tale. It may be adding or embellishing description or deciding whose point of view the narrative should follow. However, sometimes the process will be much more rigorous, and we will need to think about how the emotional arc is pulling the story, graft more than one tale together, or build up character motivations from little more than dust. What’s important is that all the decisions we make about the structure of a story, as Loren Neimi repeatedly makes clear in his The Book of Plots, should be deliberate and considered, and we should be aware of the importance and impact of the choices we make on the telling.

So before we continue, let’s ask how much can we change and work our material. What permissions do we have to adapt our tales, and what obligations do we have to the story? I’ll expand on this further when I talk about life in the Cannibal Village, but for now I want to share some of the insight I gleamed while reading Mariah Tartar’s The Classic Fairy Tales.

In this collection Tartar very deliberately takes four or five common versions of well known fairy tales and offers them up alongside one another. So, for example, under the section for Beauty and the Beast we find de Beaumont’s Beauty and The Beast, Straparola’s The Pig King, the Brothers Grimm’s The Frog King, Angela Carter’s The Tiger’s Bride and several others, along with commentary about what makes these different versions distinct and references to similar tales like East of the Sun, West of the Moon.

These different versions are just that: different and radically so. It’s hard in some cases to even say what fundamental quality of the story is preserved when narrative premise, beastial imagery and every single aspect of the tale seem mutable from one version to the next. And yet what we can learn here is that the boundaries which a single story can explore without losing its fundamental identity are very wide indeed. We have permission to adapt, to change, to twist and to reconsider our stories to an alarming degree, as long as we do so to the betterment and relevance of the performances we give.

Our work is very different from that of the great anatomist Cuvier, who allegedly could see exactly how a whole animal must have appeared from a single bone. There is no definite creature we are making when we reconstruct our bones, we may have too many bones or bones from more than one original creature. Thus the choices that need making are ours to make, the artistic decisions ours to own, and we must not shy away from them.

And the resulting stories are ours to tell.