Thanks to Suzanne McConnaghy for summing up her first experience of reading with us at Southbank on March 19th.
Writers Unchained impressed me so much at the Festival of Literature, back in October 2016, that I decided I would enter their next event. They’d finally got me to see that writing a short story was not just writing a story: there was an art to it. Large learning curve and here I am at Story Sunday on March 19th, 2017, about to step onto the stage.
The Southbank Club provides us with a relaxed and welcoming venue to listen to ten writers’ interpretations of the theme: ‘Another Country.’
I soon find Story Sunday’s excellent organisation is very supportive to the readers – when you have a programme and know exactly when you are on, it does a lot to calm the nerves. I’m placed mid-way through Act 1 and this gives me time to see how the first two excellent writers handle the situation but comes early enough to allow relaxed enjoyment of the remaining performances.
Heather Jo Reed’s ‘Mr Muyila’s Bull’ transports us straight out to the African Bush, transfixing the listener as we come to understand the fate intended for the little girl and enjoy the mother’s clever thwarting of her husband’s will. Thoroughly rattled by Mark Lewis’s surreal ‘The Ancestors,’ during which we travel across place and time,’ I realise it’s my turn. I’ve prepared a smooth response to the introduction but fail to hear a word of what is said – it must be nerves – so I have to go straight into the story. With ‘Boy in a Blue Shirt,’ you’re out in Bristol, mixing with the people who live on the streets – and under them.
Ali Bacon’s sensitive story of a young girl’s death, ‘The Coldest Country of All,’ introduces a note of sadness which contrasts well with the following piece, ‘The Emperor’s New Wall.’ After the tension of the previous reading, this satirical story by Debbie Young gives the audience an opportunity for uncomplicated laughter.
An interval filled with the strong musical performance of Dawn Marie Kelly, mixing well-known titles with some of her own work, and we’re into the second act with Jean Burnett’s ‘Swansong.’ Set in Malta, it reveals the uncertain world of the hit-man and confirms that his is not the ideal profession – if we didn’t already know it. A smooth performance by Lania Knight with ‘The Red Doll’ touches on the theme of homesickness and the power of certain objects, while John Holland’s ‘The Doorstep’ deals with a familiar character, the Polish workman, whom we see in an entirely new way. Then, Dawn Marie Kelly is back with ‘No Place,’ the story of a simple world somehow made infinitely menacing in the telling. Her acting ability and very convincing American accent made this story very powerful.
To finish, Mark Rutterford’s funny, self-deprecating ‘Skydiving’ takes us on a whirlwind journey through his love life, which feels exactly how I believe skydiving would be. This intricate, cleverly-constructed story is a worthy end to a very satisfying programme.
Can I recommend attendance at the next Writers Unchained event?
Most definitely. You’ll sit enthralled through a couple of hours of thought-provoking entertainment. And if you’re a writer with aspirations like me, you’ll also learn much from the way in which the performers handle their material and deliver it to the audience. Look out for the next Story Sunday.
Thank you, Suzanne! If anyone would like to be notified of our next event, please contact us to be added to our mailing list.