Although I’ve seen many a thought-provoking theatre production, it hasn’t frequently happened that I feel genuinely conflicted about a theatrical concept. ‘Retelling Tales’, however, has provoked such a reaction.
This production is a set of monologues, specifically TED talks reworked for the stage. The show is running for five nights at the BT Studio, and each night a different combination of stories is presented, covering topics ranging from abuse, to mortality, to mental health, and much more.
While watching these monologues, however, one can’t help but ask: who should tell what stories? The TED talks that have been selected involve some very heavy material, and at times I had my doubts about the young performers’ ability to carry it. Without making any assumptions about the actors’ personal experiences, I must say that the performances failed to move me in the way the original talks may have. While I also do not want to suggest that this sort of material should be off-limits to amateur productions, it would appear that these students simply didn’t have the time to explore it thoroughly enough.
This brings me to a central concern: the TED talks selected are based on personal experiences, and are not designed to be dramatic texts, despite being written to be ‘performed’ in a certain way. Does that mean you have less authorization to remake or alter them? Should TED talks even be ‘open source’ as such? This production does not provide any answers, but I commend it for posing these important questions.
All of this is not to downplay the earnest attempt of the cast to convey these personal stories respectfully and convincingly. The conflict caused by the show’s concept is an interesting one, and I feel important to explore. It only propels me to encourage more strongly that you go and see it for yourself – and perhaps you will come away with a new perspective on stories and their dramatic tellers.