Tales She Tells Well

 Ian Huffam

            Folk tales are half entertainment and half education: besides telling exciting stories of lovers and battles, they show what can happen to people who make hasty decisions, or show the powerlessness of humans against vengeful gods.

This is what happens in Tales She Tells, by Tess Mc Manus. Powerful gods there are not, but as our unnamed narrator Mc Manus takes us through 3 Irish folk tales that deal with a very specific love charm – to protect herself, sometimes a young Irish woman swears to the almighty powers that she could only love one man, and then names a few physical qualities that her hypothetical man would have. If she never meets this man then she is free from love’s pains forever, and if she does then she has found her soul mate.

There are a few obvious downsides to this love charm, which Mc Manus’ character comments on between stories, as well as recalling the moment, when she was still very young, when her folk-tale-loving mother made her cast the same spell on herself. It is a charm that can lead to great passion, but also to great pain, as happens in the eponymous tales.

The bulk of this show is taken up by 3 stories of lovers drawn together by this charm. Mc Manus is an expert storyteller; the stage in Academic Hall is perhaps a little too large for this show but she keeps the focus on herself at all times, mostly through her restrained and clean movements. Her Irish accent is impressively consistent, though there were momentary lapses.

The only part of this show that still seems weak is the framing narrative, where Mc Manus’ narrator reflects on her loss of direction following her mother’s death, which leads to the examination of her mother’s favourite stories. It’s a strong theme but the narrator stays stuck in the “What do I do?” stage of grief, which, though moving, doesn’t confer much wisdom. When she does begin to move on by the end, it’s in a manner that you likely saw coming by halfway through.

Still, this is a very smoothly done show and a welcome introduction to traditional Irish culture for the uninitiated. I would recommend this show to anyone who likes romance, tragedy, and magic – which is to say, everyone.

 

A Little Green Hat Production

Written and Performed by Tess Mc Manus

Directed by Dave Dawson

Venue 3 Academic Hall

Show times here