Tales of Whatever is not a list of excuses given by a stroppy teenager but a series of true stories told by invited guests. In some cases this amounts to the same thing as this evening’s performance illustrated. The setting for tonight’s event was the magnificent Leeds Library.
Rather than just being the name of the evening’s entertainment, Tales of Whatever is a concept realised by writer/performer Mark Powell which allows hand-picked speakers to relate a true incident in their lives to an audience. The spots should be ten minutes long and done without notes so there is an air of authenticity about proceedings as well as a good variety of styles and content.
I love a good story but it is an art which seems to be declining in popularity with fewer exponents as time goes by. It might be the fault of the internet – what isn’t? – where tales need to be told in less than 280 characters to fit in a tweet, or perhaps it is the decline in good old-fashioned boozers with tap rooms where the locals would regale each other with memories after a few pints of nostalgia fuel. Even the professional raconteur seems to be a thing of the past with chat shows now filled with those who just name drop and plug their latest film, book or song. My heroes in this genre were Robert Morley and Peter Ustinov, both actors but who could keep you enthralled with not only the stories themselves, but the language and construction of the yarns. Then came Billy Connelly who made his name on TV by recalling the memories of his childhood in Glasgow and his folk singing career. I suppose the only person left now to carry on this tradition is Stephen Fry who is the current Grand Master.
As I have said, the construction of a story is the key to its success and this was perfectly illustrated from the beginning by Lee Moore, the co-host along with MarkPowell, of Tales of Whatever. I am sure that he will not mind me saying this, tough luck if he does, but Mr Moore is in very early middle age and, like myself, has the figure of a man who has made the most out of life. His story was both hilarious and beautifully told being about his visiting the hip fashion store, Hollister, to buy a t-shirt for his nephew’s birthday. Needless to say, all did not go well and he was told in no uncertain terms by some juvenile oik that the store had nothing that would be of any interest to him. I will not relate the remainder of the yarn as I don’t wish to spoil it just in case you have the opportunity to see him deliver it live, and I am also very much aware of the laws of copyright.
In addition to the co-hosts there were four other contributors to the evening’s entertainment. Actually, to call it entertainment might be a bit of a misnomer as a couple of the stories were very personal and one, especially, very touching. Mark Powell didn’t tell the story he had set out to relate but went on a riff about his eccentric mate Todd who as well as being a little out of sync with the world was no stranger to a glass of something other than Tizer causing him to end up in bed with a strange man after relieving himself on the fireplace in the master bedroom.
The first of the invited guests was Laura Darall who told the incredible story of her mother’s car accident which led to her infertility problem being reversed thus enabling her to produce the inspiring woman we saw before us. There were other twists relating to mental health problems in the family, which thankfully seem to have been overcome, and how she is now embarking on a new life at a total tangent to the one she has been living. Follow her on twitter at https://twitter.com/lauradarrall?lang=en
The second storyteller was Ash Preston who had all of the men in the audience squirming in their seats whilst telling of one of his early ‘romantic’ encounters with a young lady who had just been to have her new acrylic fingernails sorted. It appears that these appendage extensions can be rather sharp and not what you would call practical when it comes to, dare I say it, foreplay. As I find it difficult to type whilst seated with my legs crossed I will leave it there. Sample his humour at https://www.facebook.com/ashprestoncomedy/
After a break to get a beer, not bad eh, a library with a bar, Lee recounted his days at theology college and the time that he was cursed by a local coven. Almost as traumatising as a trip to Hollister.
We were then introduced to Ali Bongo. People of a certain age will know the bearer of that name to be a strange little chap dressed in oriental garb and performing magic tricks on Crackerjack. He then became a magicians’ consultant and created material for people such as Paul Daniels. Thankfully, this was a different Ali Bongo, which is just as well as the one I mentioned has been dead for ten years, although his story might have given us a glimpse into the unknown. This Aly Bongo ( I only found out that the spelling was different when searching for a link but aren’t going to waste a good couple of lines) is a female comedian, I don’t know if it is acceptable to say comedienne any more, who this time got the women in the library uncomfortable. She told three toilet related stories the most gross of which concerned a primitive South-east Asian ‘hole in the ground’ affair which didn’t end well either for her or the rest of the passengers on the bus journey. ’Nuff said. https://twitter.com/alyybongo?lang=ca
Finally there was Matt Hoss who regaled us with stories of his less than conventional love life, what there is of it, and involved members of the audience in the telling. He began, however, by reading a poem from a book which he had found on the library shelves, this turned out to be one of his own verses which he had inserted into the tome. It summed up the vibe of the night as, when he slammed the book shut, a cloud of dust emerged from it illustrating just how archaic some of the more obscure volumes are. His allotted ten minutes was more fragmented than the others but very entertaining all the same. He ended by reading us the playlist from his recently released, or should that be escaped, country cd which, like all albums of that genre deals with death and desertion. Check him out at https://twitter.com/MattHossComedy?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor
Tales of Whatever is based in Sheffield and this was their first foray into Leeds, thankfully it will not be their last as they are here again, at The Leeds Library on Friday 6th March as part of next year’s Leeds Lit Fest. The storytellers will be different but I am sure that they will be just as good. Book now to avoid disappointment.
Follow Lee Moore at https://twitter.com/fullofpenguins
And Mark Powell at https://twitter.com/gomark?lang=en
All photographs by Stan Graham.