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Local story teller

What's happening in Maulden, Clophill and areas to the east of Ampthill

Local story teller

Postby CraftsbyCarolyn » Tue Dec 03, 2013 11:09 am

Makes the local paper ... 090000.htm

“ABOUT 20 years ago” recalls Mark, “I used to enjoy going to folk clubs. People would sit around in a circle and everyone would sing a song that they knew. Well, I couldn’t sing so I started doing comic spoofs instead and became interested in that kind of small-scale, intimate exchange; the antithesis of the stadium rock concerts that I went to in my youth.”
The practice of storytelling is nothing new. Hundreds of years ago, our ancestors would have been entertained by traditional tales as they huddled round the fire on dark, winter nights.
In 2013, on dark winter nights in Clophill, things are no different. Mark and his fellow members of the storytelling club, Fibs and Fables, can be found huddling round a stove in an old garden shed, eating cake, drinking coffee and telling stories.
“Joining Fibs and Fables made me raise my game” he says. “It made me take things much more seriously. As far as I am concerned there are two rules. Firstly, no reading, a minimum of technology and lights and no funky staging. You have to feel the stories and respond to the audience. Secondly, it’s important to connect to the ancient traditions. But I’m not very traditional. I’m very keen to tell stories with strong parts for women. It’s easy to get trapped in swords and sandals type stories. I try to tell stories that people can engage with. I have achieved the best success so far with Tristram & Isolde.”
The only surviving medieval romance it was, says Mark, “the biggest hit of the Middle Ages, a tale of courtly love that spread across Europe. I stayed faithful to the original story but made it relevant to the 21st century. It makes the story telling longer but more real and people feel the emotion of it. But I’m not a re-enactment society; there are no throwing of chicken bones over the shoulder and dressing up. It has to work in the here and now. And I’m not an actor” he adds, hurriedly. “I never wanted to be an actor. I’m not pretending to be someone else. I’m always myself - but I never, ever imagined myself doing something like this.”
And Mark never imagined that he would be doing so much of it either. In the last year he has performed more than 50 gigs, the highlight being telling the story of Tristram & Isolde in Ely Cathedral.
He has between 40 and 50 stories in his repertoire, lasting from between four minutes and an hour. Most are for adults. “I feel quite evangelical that storytelling is not just for children” he says. His wife, artist Liz Silk, is his most assiduous critic. “She never says ‘oh that’s lovely” says Mark. “She’ll pick me up on the smallest detail if a word or a gesture is out of place. And that’s a big part of it.”
There are already bookings in the calendar for next year and beyond. “I am unknown on five continents” he says “but because I have a few local stories, such as Murder at Flitwick Wood, I am invited to tell them to groups at all sorts of local organisations. Now a semi-pro storyteller. He is already very popular on the Women’s Institute circuit and, by popular demand, will be making a return appearance at next year’s Bedfringe.
“I get stage fright when I’m doing a gig in Bedford because they all know me and I couldn’t bear to let them down. I haven’t forgotten my words - yet, but I do rehearse. I take a professional approach to the work. I make sure that the intro, how I look and how I finish are all right.”
For the next couple of months, Mark will be carrying out research for new stories - probably by the fire, as the nights grow longer and the wind blows that little bit colder...
You can contact Mark or find out more about Fibs and Fables by emailing him at:
Mark Steinhardt has worked in residential care homes, as a teacher and currently works in the University of Bedfordshire library.

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