"The waters and the wild"
by Avril Silk for remotegoat on 03/03/19

Some storytellers grab you by the throat. Resistance is futile. Surrender is the only option. Yes, Daniel Morden of The Devil’s Violin, I do mean you. Others fix you with a basilisk stare and, if you’re like me, you look about uneasily for albatrosses and the door marked Exit.

Irish storyteller Clare Muireann Murphy, on the other hand, with a deceptively gentle affability, beguiles and entrances us to follow her to the place where the barrier between this world and that of the Others is thin. Her wise and witty stories, of once-god fairies (who bear no resemblance to Disney’s confections of flutter and frills), changelings, stolen children, strange marriages, theft, deception and wild curses, welcome us into ordinary homes, sit us by the hearth, serve us a generous glass of whiskey and introduce us to folk we recognise, as they fall in love, labour, give birth, and, in time, approach their end. Then she brings on the Others, drop-dead gorgeous, unscrupulous and inscrutable and carelessly bringing mayhem into the lives of ordinary mortals.

Clare’s stories, rooted in the lives of lovers, women and babies, have plenty of generous, kindly room for men (as long as they vamoose when the midwife tells them to.) The psychology that underpins the myths and fables appeals to me. I relished how Clare convinced us of the new mother’s infatuation with her baby right up until the screaming began and the need for sleep overwhelmed her. Who hasn’t tried to comfort a bawling, berserk baby and wondered if some terrible substitution has taken place? And what child/partner hasn’t seen the benevolent, loving (ovulating) mother turn into a (pre-menstrual) hyped-up harpy and secretly thought the same?

The appreciative audience at Exeter’s Cygnet Theatre clearly enjoyed following Clare through the wonderful Irish landscape (despite the rain) and learning when you should stay safely indoors rather than risk scary encounters on the road. The perils of May’s Eve were new to me, but now I’ll be on my guard!

At the risk of sounding greedy, in the warm, safe atmosphere of one of my favourite venues, I had room in my thrill-seeking heart for the touch of an icy hand on my shoulder; the frisson of hairs standing up on the back of my neck. (Amazing, as I am normally very wimpy.) There were shadows aplenty, but with Clare as my guide, I could have looked – between my fingers – into deeper darkness. Just for a moment.

If you missed the excellent performance at the Cygnet, Clare now lives in Bristol, so there will hopefully be many opportunities to hear this gifted storyteller weave her wild, Celtic magic.

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