Review by Priscilla Issa
What makes TattleTales a brilliant production is that the 1-hour immersive and interactive adventure is a wild and fantastical reprieve from the same-same of everyday life. The production is a ‘choose your own adventure’ where there is no limit to the detail and fantasy audiences can conjure up.
Tale tellers, Lachlan Ruffy and Davey Seagle, are wordsmiths and revel in the art of worldbuilding. They can describe in vivid detail a world as filled with the mysterious, the odd, and the grotesque as any other fantasy location (think games like World of Warcraft or any number of Tolkien or Sanderson novel settings). Villainous characters like witches, thieves, beggars, and shady viscounts, fantastical tomes and grimoires, and supernatural powers make appearances. Decaying buildings, rotting plants, odorous bogs, and gnats gnawing at skin dripping with sweat are hallmark features of the medieval story, which they can weed out of the minds of their audiences.
But they also expertly strike a perfect balance - providing both a safe space for audience members to lose themselves and logical, well-constructed narratives with definitive resolutions.
There’s something so human about the experience of collective storytelling. As the ten-person audience finds points of commonality, the narrative begins to take on a larger aspect: the plot reveals the broader conditions of the group’s lives. Whether the audience has opted for a completely fictitious planet, a parallel universe, an alternative timeline, or an alternative history, the production reflects the lives of audience members back at them. By “lives” we mean their subconscious minds, their lived experiences, their triumphs, their fears, their desires.
The narrator, impressively, manages to weed out of the subconscious a feeling of the all-too-familiar. Metaphorical parallels between the stifling months of pandemic lockdown that Sydney has just experienced, and the hot and insipid medieval bazaar and city surrounds of the audience’s imagination, could certainly be made. Just as the fictitious characters were narrowly dodging sickness and dealing with a world turned upside down, the real world is experiencing the same.
So, how does a Storyteller do this - construct these layered experiences? They need to be good at listening to and reading the expressions of their audience to propel the story forward and/or change the narrative path. Ruffy, in this case, consciously looked for the similarities in personality traits between his audience and their chosen characters. He helped each audience member develop a nuanced character so that they did not end up mere caricatures of a standard fantasy tale. It takes a true master of storytelling to make the “Ten of Swords” and “Five of Pentacles” (tarot cards) fit the narrative in the participant’s subconscious mind, rather than be the driving force behind the plot.
Contributing to the real-world/mystical duality is the brilliant set, constructed by Phoenix Mae. Layers upon layers of fabric, mountains of cushions, hazy lighting, books atop a rustic chest of draws, and rich, crimson mead, all create a feeling of being transported into a 15th Century storyteller’s tent. This warm setting helps immerse the audience in the story and, ultimately, recognise themselves in the characters. Equally, the hourglass is a minute-by-minute reminder that the story requires a resolution before the audience is snapped back to the real world.
Lighting, designed by Sophie Parker, cleverly infuses shades of white and black, and just for a bit of fun throws in some various shades of red and orange. As the story progresses, the Storyteller gets to choose the lighting he believes will give effect to turning points in the storyline.
TattleTales is running at Flight Path Theatre until 19th December.