Review: Brave and Free

Today we went to the Scottish Storytelling Centre to check out one of the few traditional storytelling acts in the Fringe Programme – Calum Lykan’s Brave and Free

TIM: That was my first time listening to Calum Lykan. We had a good natter before the show and worked out which other storytellers we knew in common. Storytelling is a small world.

THE DEVIL: Where everyone has sideburns, apparently.

TIM: Oh stop sulking. Lykan is working hard this festival, he’s doing his Brave and Free twice a day and then he’s got an extra show with The Free Fringe called In the footsteps of Giants. Brave is old school storytelling, Calum has a good sized repertoire, he waits to see who turns up, he gets into a bit of patter between stories and his set evolves each time in response to his audience. Today there was quite a wide age range across the children in the audience and that put certain restrictions on what he got to tell. But it was all good, Lykan clearly has a deep affection for his material and he’s an energetic, powerful teller. And I had the delight of hearing a few new tales, which is always a treat.


TIM: Do you really have nothing to say? We’re meant to do these reviews together. If you don’t contribute then I’ll reveal why you’re in such a bad mood.

THE DEVIL: Why don’t you tell them about the spurtles?

TIM: Ah yes, the spurtles! One of the easy traps to fall into with telling isolated short stories is that you can end up visiting a lot of different story worlds. Lykan avoided this by keeping everything tightly tied to the same Scottish landscape. (The one tale he told from outside the Scots tradition he adapted to the setting.) It makes it much easier to carry people for over an hour. I was also particularly impressed with how he re-incorporated imagery from one tale to the next. For example, in one story he featured a man who made spurtles for a living – porridge stirring sticks – and then every other story where porridge was mentioned would reintroduce the spurtle. This recursion of motifs and imagery can be fundamental to feature length pieces, but it’s tricky in a set that is being put together on the fly and Lykan did well.

THE DEVIL: Reincorporated imagery? You liked it because you like the word ‘spurtle’. It appeals to your simple mind.

TIM: And the reason The Devil is in such a bad mood is because he noticed how careful Lykan was being to ensure his kilt didn’t lift up as he span, so he snuck onto stage to try and catch a peek at some authentic Scottish undergarments. But Calum was so animated in his telling that he stamped on Satan’s tail in his enormous stompy boots. And now the Infernal Majesty is bruised.

THE DEVIL: I think it’s broken, actually. I may not be able to make our opening night tomorrow.

TIM: For me, Brave and Free was like something out of my childhood. It’s been ages since I’ve seen a storyteller just tell some stories without trying to fashion things together into a show. It’s nice to recall how important repertoire is to the storytelling craft. And, because this is exactly the form of storytelling that I first encountered as a child, it was a pleasure to be in the audience with children of about the same age as I was back then.

Tim Ralphs is a storyteller and his show of urban devilry Rebranding Beelzebub is on every night from 2 August 2014 to 24 August 2014 at 9:50pm in The Banshee Labyrinth. A PBH free fringe performance – you only have to pay what you think the Devil is due.


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