Reflections on Autumn, LeftLion reviews and Day of the Dead

Posted: December 24th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Hi there! A quick update on some of the things that have been happening this past Autumn.

My new storytelling club, Beeston Tales, is thriving. Matt Turpin came along to check out a recent show and has written a wonderful review for LeftLion.

“simple tales… ..are told luxuriantly, the beat and cadence of the teller’s lines giving prose poetry. There is a hypnotic feel to the tales: you’re back round that prehistoric campfire again, rapt.”

Read the full review here.

Mike Payton and I were involved in the British Museum’s “Day of the Dead” exhibition. It was a fantastic day in a remarkable venue.

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Click in for a larger image. Big thanks to Benedict Johnson for the pictures.

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Lastly, I realise how long it’s been since I’ve managed to get out my podcast. That’s a big shame, and I suspect that The Room Behind the Bookcase will feature in a New Year’s resolution for 2016!

Solstice Blessings and all the best as we close 2015 and start the new year.


Reviews and comments for recent gigs

Posted: April 29th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

My performance of Can the Mountains Love the Sea? got a review by A Small Mind.

“An excellent night.” * * * *

Read the full review here.

I also got these kind words from some Viking reinactors who came along:

“What a great experience this was! My friend J~ and I were completely enthralled by your enchantment and sheer professionalism. This was storytelling at its best and we were truly privileged to have witnessed it.

Not one single word was wasted. The pacing was spot-on. The characterisation was vivid and varied. You were totally absorbed ‘in the moment’ of the story, as was your audience. You made mythology live and breath…”

- the wannabe Vikings!

~ ~ ~

And some great audience comments from my performance of Jonathan and David at Night of the Storyteller. (All comments used with permission.)

“A few centuries ago listeners might have found the intimacy between David and Jonathon unsettling, but not have baulked at the violent massacre of the Amalekites. Now our sensitivities are reversed, but it is a credit to Tim Ralphs’ telling that he does not flinch at nor soft-pedal the difficult parts of this story. The show that results is touching and tender, rich and many-layered. A paean to love, friendship, and promise-keeping.”

Sarah Rundle, Storyteller

“I thought your performance at The Miller was beautiful! I loved the multiple narratives, juxtaposition and how many layers there were. Deftly, discretely & generously done (because you never demanded we think any particular thing). Congratulations!”

Giles Abbott, Storyteller

“Thank you for last night’s performance which I found profoundly moving. There are scenes which, although understated in your telling, remain vividly etched in my consciousness – the deeply human interaction between Saul and the Witch of Endor, for instance, to name just one.

Your subtle and deeply respectful crafting of links between Bible story and Life story created a rich tapestry which brought the spinning of story, and the fabric of life to life, a subtle veil through which you facilitated the potential to get a glimpse of the ineffable.

The formal musical framing device you used was masterful.

You are truly breaking new ground in the form.”

Leon Conrad, Voice Specialist


The Oxford Culture Review reviews The Four Chambers of The Heart

Posted: February 16th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , | No Comments »

L. C. Broad reviews “The Four Chambers of the Heart” in The Oxford Culture Review. I’m really glad she liked it. The Four Chambers is a very important project for Clare Murphy, Cat Gerrard and myself, and I hope you’ll be hearing more about it soon.

The universe, wrote poet Muriel Rukeyser, is made of stories, not of atoms. Poetic sentiment maybe, but when told well, stories have the ability both to let us explore new worlds, and to make us look at a familiar world afresh. This week, in a sparsely decorated room in the Story Museum, storytellers Clare Murphy and Tim Ralphs presented a collection of tales that without doubt achieved this. Set against a black backdrop decorated only with fairy lights, the two transported the audience to realms with spirits who can change your gender, and bowls that turn their contents into gold. In each of these stories, though, was the ordinary and the everyday – the young couple who wish to love without facing judgement from others, daughters with troubled relationships with their parents. They may have travelled beyond the constraints of the earthly in a single evening, but Murphy and Ralphs never once left behind the human and intimate in their stories.”

Read the full review here!


Fringe Guru reviews Rebranding Beelzebub.

Posted: August 18th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Lizzie Bell from Fringe Guru reviewed Rebranding Beelzebub and gave it a big, fat four stars.

“This is a funny, cleverly-done show that is very much worth seeing: one that will delight, amuse and surprise you by turns. It’s a highly entertaining hour with a top-rate storyteller. If you enjoy tales of supernatural trickery and having a good laugh, this show will suit you perfectly.”

We’re working really hard up here and I’ve been attending a lot of the industry events organised by The Fringe Central. We were planning on writing more reviews but what with three hours of flyering and performing every evening, time has been short.

Last week now! Don’t miss out!

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.


Review: 300 to 1

Posted: August 10th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Following a recommendation, Tim and The Devil go along to see Matt Panesh’s 300 to 1

TIM: So here’s a concept for you, a one man show re-enacting the movie 300 with critical commentary from the ghosts of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon.

THE DEVIL: Intriguing.

TIM: Yes. I think the concept is brilliant and I had high expectations going into the Chamber Room. Luckily that gem of an idea was brought to perfect execution in Matt Panesh’s 300 to 1. A teenage boy, bored at the prospect of having to read First World War poetry for homework, contemplates joining the army. When confronted by Owen and Sassoon, he attempts to justify himself by launching into a testosterone fuelled rendition of 2007 film. Panesh is perhaps better known for his work as the sh*t flinging monkey poet and is something of a staple at The Banshee Labyrinth. He openly embraces the idea that this is a free fringe show, he delights in the low-fi, indie aesthetic. He bounds from character to character as the cast grows steadily larger. He waves his hands and chants “wibbly wobbly” when he needs special effects. And yet, behind the incredibly high-energy irreverence of his performance, is a work that is both genuinely clever and unnecessarily awesome.

THE DEVIL: Yes. It would be very easy to get swept up in the sweaty whirlwind and miss Matt’s attention to detail. He captured the characters he wanted to portray with ease. His slow motion battle scene did a great job of following Gerard Butler’s choreography. The poets provided excellent commentary on the abundant homo-eroticism whilst sniping at the classical references. But I was most impressed at Matt’s subtle skill with manipulating an audience.

TIM: Absolutely! Like the way he built our expectations before the infamous “This is Sparta!” line.

THE DEVIL: And had us writhing in our death throes as Persian arrows rained down.

TIM: For me, the most striking demonstration of how well Panesh steered the audience’s emotional experience came toward the end. He delivered Leonidas’ soliloquy prior to his last stand. His T-shirt was up under his chin, revealing the extra musculature that he’d haphazardly drawn on his scrawny belly. He looked absurd. But he gave that speech with such dignified gravitas and I couldn’t help but feel stirred – a part of me was ready to take up arms and die to defend freedom and reason. And then Sassoon made the teenage boy read dulce et decorum est and the mood in the room turned on a pin.

THE DEVIL: Do you think people need to have seen the film to enjoy it?

TIM: I haven’t seen the film and that didn’t stop me laughing a lot. To be honest, I don’t think it matters too much. Of everything I’ve seen at The Fringe this was probably the most fun. It’s also something that exactly lives up to its pitch. If the idea appeals to you even remotely then you’re going to enjoy what you get. Go!

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.


Review: Can’t Care, Won’t Care

Posted: August 8th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Wandering the nether corridors of The Banshee Labyrinth, Tim and The Devil go to see Sophia Walker’s Can’t care, Won’t care

THE DEVIL: Do we do awards? I want to do awards. I want to nominate this for the Philip Pullman prize for the show with the darkest material.

TIM: Quite! The premise is pretty simple. The show casts the audience in the role of a jury hearing evidence on whether or not a care worker is guilty of homicidal negligence after the death of one of her patients.

THE DEVIL: Not “patients.” One of her “service users”. The language is important.

TIM: That phrase still makes me shiver. I don’t know how it manages to be so dehumanising. Anyway, Sophia portrays two characters on stage. One is based on herself and her experiences whilst working in the care system. The other is The State incarnate, a cruel accuser who rattles off her transgressions and reads aloud from the relevant codes of practice. The story focusses on three specific occasions where Sophia either did not or could not act in accordance with these codes of practice. In between these vividly depicted scenes, Walker explores how budget cuts and re-tendering processes make it almost impossible to provide any sort of care at all. Her clear and abundant knowledge of the system is evident in every word and her anger is entirely on display.

THE DEVIL: She was pretty cross. Mind you, the character of The State seemed pretty angry at her for whining and not taking responsibility for what she’d done. Something with which I do tend to empathise.

TIM: I was battered by the end. Walker unloaded both barrels of fury and it was unrelentingly aggressive. There was a little disconnect for me at the end though. The show is framed as being open to the audience to deliberate on their verdict. I just felt that the decision was obvious. I didn’t feel like I had two sides to consider. The State was so unsympathetic that I don’t know how anyone could have decided against the care worker.

THE DEVIL: I don’t agree. She admitted to breaking rules.

TIM: Stupid, impossible rules.

THE DEVIL: I think that’s the point. Anyway. Poetry. Sophia Walker boasts being BBC slam champion and winner of the PBH Best Spoken Word Show of 2013. What did you make of her use of language?

TIM: I was seriously impressed. I need to do a whole blog post on the use of wordplay and the effect it has on the listener experience but suffice to say that Sophia delivered a masterclass. Her use of rhyme never came across as forced, never diminished her credibility or her intensity. Instead, it served to keep me focussed on her performance. I was hooked and re-hooked by her voice. And I was haunted by the ambiguity of it all. Was everything she said true? Did she collate experiences together into one narrative? I think a lot of the power of the piece came from that and I’m glad she didn’t diminish it with explanation.

THE DEVIL: Wrap up?

TIM: There are stories that need to be heard and there are stories that need to be told. This is both. Sophia’s performance feels like a purge. Her frank honesty and poetic craft add art to her vitriol. This was a bitter performance to endure. And that felt entirely fitting.

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.


Review: Wretch like me

Posted: August 5th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Tim and the talking serpent he suspects is The Devil attend David Templeton’s Wretch like me (or How I was saved from being saved.)

TIM: This is a storytelling show in which Templeton talks about his lonely childhood and how he was increasingly sucked into the Evangelical Christianity in his teens. He does a good job of painting himself as the “wretch” from the hymn Amazing Grace and then explores the theme of salvation, his role in perpetuating the semi-abusive messages of fundamentalist Christianity and the crisis of faith that lead to him breaking away and finding his own path.

THE DEVIL: And puppetry.

TIM: Yeah, he does talk about how nobody likes a puppeteer. This was a wondrous tragi-comedy, ultimately uplifting but, by God, David puts you through an emotional ringer to get there. Templeton is very skilled at his craft. There are lovely little touches, the salamander that becomes a metaphor, the soft reinforcement of the lamb imagery. And his characterisation is phenomenal. So many of the people in the story are slightly blissed-out Californians and yet David portrays each one as distinct and fully developed: Reverend Dude, Righteous Rick the leader of the school bible club and so many more. I had a chat with him afterwards about the evolution of the show and his quest to find a Director that got what he was trying to do. All very interesting stuff.

THE DEVIL:…

TIM: Hey, what’s up with you today? You’re being very quiet.

THE DEVIL: Conflict of interests. I have a cameo in this story. I appear as a talking fly in the second act. Tell them about how you cried.

TIM: Oh there were tears. It is the mark of great personal storytelling that it goes beyond the confessional and anecdotal and instead touches something universal, something that might be called archetypal. I can’t say for sure how well Wretch like me manages that, but I found this story deeply personally affecting. Perhaps that has something to do with my own spiritual journey. It’s been exactly a year since I was ordained as a Minister. I’ve known plenty of people who have been deeply hurt by religious institutions and Wretch like me resonated keenly. But more than weep, I really wanted to dance. If I’d been a shade less inhibited, I’d have been up at the end dancing in the aisles as Templeton sang “Amazing Grace” to the tune of Springsteen’s When I’m out on the street.. I was filled with ecstatic joy.

THE DEVIL: Aw. Would you like a hug?

TIM: Yeah. Yeah, that would be nice.

THE DEVIL: Then go find someone with arms.

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.


Review: Dandy Darkly’s Pussy Panic

Posted: August 4th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Continuing the theme of shows with expletives in the title, Tim and The Devil go to see Dandy Darkly’s Pussy Panic.

THE DEVIL: Ahh my beloved Dandy. Self-professed to be New York’s satiric and satanic storyteller.

TIM: Yeah, this really felt like it held promise for both of us. I must say I’ve been delighted by the variety of storytelling here at the festival. Dandy is a glittery, gruesome, extravaganza of a spoken-word performer. His show is listed as a cabaret act and that’s the best label going. Pussy Panic is four short stories loosely held together by the idea that Dandy is trying to get over his deep-seated fear of vaginas. It’s hysterical. (Pun intended.) Dandy is just shockingly charming, even as his laugh grates, even as his feathers fly. The wordplay is tight. The soundtrack and folio effects are a wonderful surprise.

THE DEVIL: A lot of people did look round to see the cat that was meowing out of the speaker. The eponymous pussy.

TIM: It was so rude, so irreverently rude. And yet so playful for a show with moments of darkness.

THE DEVIL: Moments of darkness? Two stories ended with suicides. One with bereavement. The other with murder, abhorrent resurrection and a cult of deformed children chanting. And that wasn’t the real darkness.

TIM: No?

THE DEVIL: No. The real darkness wasn’t wrapped up in cabaret. It was in the honest moments of reflection.

TIM: Yes. Dandy affected a caricature of apology when he said he didn’t want his pussy-phobia to offend anyone with or without a vagina. I was a little wary, but the whole topic was handled so cleverly that you could see the deeper sincerity of what he had to say about the presence of misogyny within the gay sub-culture. In that respect it was powerful, nuanced storytelling.

THE DEVIL: I would have liked more satanism though. I didn’t even get a mention.

TIM: You know what I would have liked? More Dandy. He’s such a good performer I feel like he would have excellent rapport and banter with the audience but, because of the tight timeframe and the pre-recorded soundtrack, I didn’t feel like he had space to properly play with us.

THE DEVIL: Oh yes. There’s the take home. “I wanted Dandy to play with me more.” Heh.

TIM: Oh grow up. The take home is that you should fasten your fascinator tightly to your head before going in and re-apply your eyeliner on the way out because Dandy is such a whirlwind of flamboyance that he is going to blow it all the way to Hell. Right. Tomorrow let’s not review something with swear words in the title.

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.


Review: What the F*ck is This?

Posted: August 3rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

It should be noted that the show we saw was plagued with technical difficulties including, but not limited to, RTJ having to use an older version of his multimedia presentation. It seems a bit disingenuous to review someone’s show on the basis of such a slip up, so I spoke to RTJ about this review and whether he was happy with me posting it. For balance, this review from Broadwaybaby.com is from a performance of the show at Etcetra Theatre, and might give a better impression of what the show will be like for the rest of the fringe run.

On a high from our first show, I persuaded the Devil we should stay up past our bedtime for Richard Tyrone Jones’ What the F*ck is This?

TIM: Described as the only show at The Fringe where a man stands on stage and says “What the f*ck is this?” for an hour. That’s an apt description. It was also listed in the programme as belonging to the genres of absurdism and multi-media. I was really looking forward to this.

THE DEVIL: Really? And what did you expect?

TIM: Well, I expected some wordplay. I expected “What is this? This is “What the F*ck is This?” is what this is.” And so on. I thought the first five minutes would be witty and entertaining, and that then I’d be bored for ten minutes and that then after that we’d enter some sort of bizarre place of incredible artistry. There was actually slightly less wordplay than I expected, in part because RTJ delivers almost everything in the same high energy, frenetic extreme tone. He uses lots of slides, which range from the surreal to the banal to the comedic to the deliberately provocative. He confronted us with images of terror, abuse. And he engages with the audience a lot, bringing them into the performance.

THE DEVIL: You sat supportively in the front row. Did you expect to find yourself onstage, recreating scenes from fetish pornography while Richard demanded angrily “What the f*ck is this?”

TIM: Not exactly.

THE DEVIL: But you enjoyed it, didn’t you?

TIM: Parts of it I enjoyed immensely. Parts of it bored me. Parts of it made me incredibly uncomfortable – Jones has a habit of making his audiences complicit in some of his most edgey comedy and you could feel the audience caught on the horns last night – We didn’t want to use racially loaded language, for example, but we could tell that if we didn’t play the game, then the show would grind to a halt, that Jones would just stand there, blasting out his mantra, denying us any progression. It was horrible!

THE DEVIL: You could have left. Most of the audience had left by the end. Driven out. You chose to stay. And now you whine about being made complicit. I relished it. It was the Metal Machine Music of spoken word. I relished how painful it was for Richard. I relished how it confused and challenged the few souls who resolved to stay.

TIM: I really liked the ending. That was genius. I was left with the most profound sensation that I had no sense of the limits of the shows, either in terms of audience and performer, but also in terms of when the show was actually over. Jones had left the stage. A few of us, shell shocked as we sat in the front row, were discussing the piece. And then I realised that those at the back were now watching and listening to us. Our deconstruction had become part of the performance. Even outside in what felt a lot like group therapy. Even walking home. I felt like I was still a part of “What the F*ck is this?” A sensation only reinforced because of how hard it is to think about the piece without asking “What the F*ck?”

THE DEVIL: I’m delighted this is on at The Fringe. If you want to boast that you endured something then you should go. If you enjoy discussing a show afterwards more than the actual performance you should go. If you genuinely want to see something different you should go.

TIM: Likewise, if any mention of rape is triggering don’t go. If images of abuse or terrorism are upsetting then you have been warned. If you want to avoid any undertone of racism then it’s not for you. I can’t even say that you’ll leave feeling entertained, which is a shame because the concept is so clever and the moments of genius are sublime. But hey. It’s on the PBH Free Fringe. It’s not like you have to pay to get in.

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.


Review: Brave and Free

Posted: August 1st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Blog | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

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.

THE DEVIL: …

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.