What makes a good story? Realistic characters? Coherent plot? A singular line that makes you simultaneously rethink everything you ever knew and fervently wish you had thought of it yourself?
Whatever the answer may be, there’s no getting around the fact that stories have been around for as long as people have been around to tell them. They’re a dominating, and perhaps domineering, force in all aspects of our lives. Considering this, it’s no surprise then, that Sydney Fringe offers a show catering specifically to this art form.
Created by Davey Seagle and Lachlan Ruffy, and produced by Aaron Cornelius, TattleTales is an immersive storytelling experience that is performed entirely on the fly — with the help of Tarot. Designed for small audiences of less than twenty, not only is the show quite intimate, each night is also completely unique, since the direction of the story is completely left in the hands of the attendees.
Walking into the small room of an unassuming terrace house at the Rocks (Fringe has aptly named the location “Reverie Rooms”) on the night of my viewing, we were greeted by Ruffy, who performed the role of Storyteller for this particular show. Whether it was Phoenix Mae and Amy Rose Jackson’s cosy and mystical set design consisting of simple drapery and strategically positioned candles; or the combination of orangey-purpley-pink mood lightning and medieval-esque tunes crafted by lightning and sound designer Sophie Parker softly playing in the background; or Ruffy’s effortless easing of the weird anxiety that arises when the realisation of “oh no, audience participation is required in this show, why am I here?” showed on my face, but by the time the performance started, I was totally on board.
Ruffy as Storyteller has an undeniably charming, and soothing, stage presence, and expertly sets the mood for the evening. There’s a little intrigue and a dash of mystery, but also a respect of the audience that allows for the maintenance of boundaries, which in turn sparks both engagement from and enjoyment for the more introverted and dubious of participants. Moving around the room with a practiced ease, the Storyteller calls on the audience to choose our adventure through seemingly simple questions and a fanned spread of Tarot cards. Across the next 60-minutes, everyone is urging a member of the group to guide our fate by selecting a tarot card at particular turning points. Sometimes we fall into cliches, but at other times it is quite quickly rectified by the pulling of an ill-fortuned card and an aptly constructed inside joke that emerges from previous characterisations we’ve decided on. Let’s just say that when there’s a magical, crowded, and isolated desert city, a traveller with a wagon of gold, pickpocketing twins named Penny and Jenny, a tired vizier, some random guard named Keith, and a giant golden snake King that’s trying to kill all of them, anything and everything becomes possible.
And the magic of TattleTales is that this story will never be told again. With a show where each night there is a new audience, a new reading, and a new storyline, the possibilities are necessarily endless. And with a similarly magical facilitator like Ruffy who brings it all together, there’s nothing much to fault here. It’s quite a performance, and quite a story.‘
TattleTales’ performs until October 1 as part of Sydney Fringe Festival. If you’re an enjoyer of DnD or any TTRPG or just a well-told story, I’d recommend going along to have a go at weaving your own adventure. Tickets can be found here.