Review by our friend Sarah Hegarty.
It was a warm, sunny evening by the sea… but in the darkened room candles flickered on tables, the graphic of a large red rattle filled a wall – and we gathered to listen to the magic of storytelling. After a brief introduction from MC Lonny Pop, the fourth Rattle Tales at the Brighton Fringe kicked off, in the intimate setting of the Brunswick pub.
First to read was Niall Drennan, whose flash fiction ‘The Kiss’ featured Sophie, a sex worker. In Drennan’s sharp prose Sophie’s clients came to life: they included a computer nerd and a junior doctor, but they all had one thing in common. The story was funny and sweet, with a clever twist which delighted the audience.
‘Vacation’, a beautifully structured story from Van Demal, showed a young boy trying to understand the devastation in his family following his mum’s miscarriage. The seaside holiday provided vivid physical descriptions – and a wonderful metaphor – which Demal used to great effect: we were there with Spud and his big brother when the tower they had painstakingly built was eaten away by the unstoppable seep of sea water.
Writers played with form and voice: ‘As You Follow’ a stunning tale in the second person from Giselle Leeb, pulled us into the dream-like world of a German bar in London during Oktoberfest, with beer steins and lederhosen and light sparking from shot glasses; and in the middle of it a golden boy – too real to be there: too unreal to be anywhere else – who led us to the banks of the moonlit Thames.
There was murder and mayhem; Joe Bedford’s ‘Constituent’ – a paean to Brighton’s Green MP Caroline Lucas – provoked laughter: a reminder that humour is hard to do, and welcome.
Every time it was a telling detail that set the scene, and convinced: the sweating windows of the school bus in Melanie Whipman’s ‘Pangolin’; the crunch of gravel under the wheels of an old van, done up by a woman who had swapped a murderous relationship for life – and death – on the open road in Alice Cuninghame’s disturbing ‘Counting Sheep.’
We writers may think we live by smoke and mirrors; but rattle-signalled questions from the audience were astute: why were there seven gunshots in that story? Do teenagers still wear leather jackets? The writers had to think on their feet. A useful reminder that readers pay attention – and writers should never underestimate them.
Writing is a lonely business, so it’s not surprising we jump at the chance to huddle round the campfire and share our stories. And at the end of the evening, like the homeless man in Erinna Mettler’s poignant story ‘Sourdough’, we were all richer.