We as people need to ask more often the classic storytelling question „and then what happens next?”
Founded at the end of the 1990s by Alexis Latham, the Scallabouche Theatre is a bilingual British studio theatre in Budapest. The speciality of the troupe is that, unlike traditional theatres, they give the audience an opportunity to shape the story. Their mission is to evoke the joys and dangers of real life on stage while blurring the boundaries between imagination and reality, creator and character, and actor and viewer.
For Alexis, improvisation is both freedom and danger. He thinks improv games are really good for preventing rational thinking, allowing the creator to be really present in the moment. “You don’t need to come up with the most amazing thing, you can help the other person do that, they can help you do it”, says Alexis.
ScallaTellers is a brand new idea with a history of about a year. Scallabouche’s shows have always been interactive, with creators noticing that the audience often steers the show in exciting, unexpected ways. They decided to embark on a very unusual experiment: ScallaTellers doesn’t involve any actors at all, the viewers create the production themselves. Individually or in groups, they bring in ideas that take shape and connect to each other with the help of Alexis.
There is only one rule: stop rational thinking. Of course, the tasks help in that. People need to feel that they can trust their first instincts without having to think for long. While “What animal would you be?”- type questions put tremendous pressure on the respondent, ones like “Think of an object in your room!” allow the free flow of imagination. With warm-up tasks like this, the audience becomes liberated and creative enough to start their journey together.
A good story always engages people, so Alexis is working on getting participants explore the most exciting worlds through their imagination. He really loves stories that are closely connected to the personalities of the participants.“In terms of the ScallaTeller stories the last one is my favourite that we created at the Vasas Szakszervezet, because I think it became the most complete group storytelling story. The group were able to put many different ideas into the story and combine them into one narrative and draw many, many strands together into that one story and I think that’s a wonderful feeling and experience for the group”, Alexis recalls.
In the future, they want to bring their audiences to places where they can be introduced to actual real life events, and they can collectively, with the help of their own imagination, recall and replay the past. The company would like to make these presentations more realistic for participants through virtual reality and holograms, creating a closer connection between people and the historical site.
The company believes that the method of storytelling is not just a tool to ‘spice up’ ideal communication, but actually a form of communication. Alexis runs many types of storytelling courses for businesses all over the world. “Storytelling can totally transform people’s communication. The key is in understanding that we are all storytellers and that if you don’t provide the story for the other party they will create it for themselves. When that happens you have lost control of the story.” In addition, storytelling helps us to better understand and connect with others, as we can comprehend their stories more easily as experienced storytellers.
“If you can’t retell the stories of your life then you live in a prison”, Alexis quotes Salman Rushdie. In their productions based on the concept of storytelling, they give audiences the opportunity to create stories that can be linked to their own lives to give meaning to particular events. However, these experiences may also explain the narratives coming through the media: if we look closely at the stories, we can easily see through them. “We as people need to ask more often the classic storytelling question »And then what happens next?« Then we might see how hollow some of the stories are that we are being fed”, says Alexis.