Review: Tatty Tales, National Student Drama Festival

There is a point in Arts Educational’s Tatty Tales where a cast member says a single word softly under their breath. Perhaps it was “bitch” or “cunt” or some other vulgar language, but in that precise moment it was just what I needed. Somewhere in the depths of my cold stomach a tickling rose. An itch rising through my oesophagus and into my gullet and out through my mouth. I cackled. A cackle worthy of a witch. This was swiftly followed by a beaming smile, showing my full set of pearly white teeth. Why do I tell you this? Because Tatty Tales leaves you feeling like you’ve been tickled all over with your mouth stitched open, I just couldn’t help but laugh and smile. I was, excuse the excitement, elated.

With their faces painted white, wearing an assortment of patchwork clothes, these energetic sixth-formers had me at the first squawk from their distorted characters. They were the distorted faces of every low-life that I see as I wander the streets of London. They were the clowns, buffoons and gypsies of the world, rubbing their hands together in glee of receiving something in return for their crooked smiles, their faces melting into each other. A Salvador Dali painting on the stage.

There’s something in the way they (the performers) present themselves. Their energy not only flowed, it crackled. They reminded me of myself at their age, and that’s no bad thing. Committing themselves to their work, I’ll wager a small bet that within this cast is tomorrow’s future Lecoq graduates. A bold statement perhaps, but I left Tatty Tales with so much excitement that I can’t help but to make bold statements. These students are easily comparable to the work I saw at last year’s Edinburgh Festival, notably those physically trained performance troupes who find their home within the Scottish city for the month.

It’s already been written within Noises Off that some attendees didn’t enjoy the grotesque performances, and I can understand this. For some, and here I’ll admit that I’m normally the same, this style of work can easily grate upon you. It takes energy, and guts. Balls even. It can so easily fail, but Arts Educational nailed it. Repeatedly. Yes, there was a slight drop of energy during some of the more focused scenes, but the ensemble worked to perfection the rest of the time.

If there was something I could pick holes at it would be the use of recorded music during one scene. The rest of the piece uses the ensemble to make their accompanying music and atmospheric noises. Whilst they cranked the sound up  and shook the Ocean Room in the Spa, it just didn’t work for me. Recorded versus the live experience argument I guess, but that’s a minor point in a show that nearly tips perfection (for me at least).

Originally published in Noises Off.