"Hear true tales by candlelight"
by Gabriella Apicella for remotegoat on 08/12/09

Two years since it first began, Spark held monthly at the Canal Cafe Theatre in Little Venice is a gorgeous place to spend an evening. Storytellers from all backgrounds relate their true tales to a crowd of friendly listeners over the course of just over an hour, punctuated with a few bars of some easy listening classics on the piano. The evening ends with everyone having learnt a little bit more about our endlessly curious species, whilst more stories are shared, and some perhaps even begin in the pub below.

For this special 2nd birthday occasion, readers from previous instalments read pieces covering themes from "Beginnings" to "Space" to "Culture Shock", all of which were delivered in an informal manner. Although readers are under a spotlight, before a microphone and on a stage, there is a pleasing lack of performance in their delivery that gives an intimacy, it was genuinely refreshing to experience. In the shadowy room around candlelit tables, eager listeners are told confessional tales recalling embarrassing memories, amusing incidents, poignant moments and the occasional life-changing drama Written gently and honestly there was nothing to offend or deeply challenge, in keeping with the cosy environment, and the evening was thoughtful and interesting throughout.

Since its first outing, Spark has clearly established a devoted following who filled every chair in the place - rather unsurprisingly given the quality of the work. At least two of the writers who read were professional, although this is by no means a requirement. Joanna Yates who runs the evening, and personally selects each piece, clearly delights in this project, and will occasionally contribute herself. Knowing that standing beneath a spotlight can be somewhat daunting for the uninitiated, she even ensures there is a rehearsal session to soothe the nerves of the readers before the night itself.

Although I did have some difficulty in finding the venue, this was a completely pleasant and lovely experience that I certainly would recommend getting slightly lost in Little Venice for… Inexplicably I had convinced myself that it was being held on a barge on the canal, so ignored the enormous corner pub named The Bridge House that the Canal Cafe Theatre is above, but will certainly return with ease for a wonderfully relaxed evening in February.

The next night takes place on 1st February and the theme is "Desire". To contribute or for more information check www.sparklondon.com. Following the usual format, seven stories each lasting around seven minutes (or circa 1300 words) will be selected.

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