dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
An evening of creepy tales
This year's Birmingham Literature Festival features a huge range of events including talks from authors, debates, new book launches and theatre. And in Shivers: Stories from The Book of Darkness and Light it also features story-telling in its most compelling form.
Writer and performer Adam Z Robinson enters the stage holding an old leather-bound book. He opens it seemingly at random and tells the audience he is destined to read stories from The Book of Darkness and Light - tales which will make us shiver. Over a 90 minute production, he then proceeds to share three horror stories with the audience.
Shivers: Stories from the Book of Darkness and Light
Each tale is very different and Robinson takes on the roles of the story-tellers. In one story he is a doctor attempting to understand the mysterious death of her brother on an isolated island full of superstition. The next he is a caller into a late night radio show sharing his experiences of a haunting. And finally he is an employee forced to stay in the home of his boss after a heavy snowfall – only to discover he is not the only visitor in the house.
Robinson is brilliant at taking on these characters and gradually pulling the audience into each story. As we sit on the edge of our seats he spins his yarn, tightening and tightening the suspense towards the conclusion of each tale. He shares the stage with composer and performer Ben Styles whose single violin provides the atmosphere to these stories - one moment the tune is mournful the next menacing.
With dramaturgy by Dick Bonham and produced by LittleMighty, Shivers also makes great use of light. Much of the stage, which has minimal set, is dark and the use of sudden spotlights not only carries the story forward but at points actually creates its own drama. In one tale, Robinson reaches the climax of the story with just a torch shining on his face, focussing all of our attention on his words as his eyes peer eerily out of the gloom.
There is a huge skill to story-telling. When theatre is so often about spectacle and huge extravagant sets and costumes it's really refreshing to be reminded that it's actually the story that counts. While Shivers may seem simple in its presentation, it works precisely because of the strength of these tales and the irresistible way in which they are presented. Shivers is an unmissable evening of creepiness – just what is needed as the nights begin to draw in.