TattleTales - Melbourne Fringe

‘TattleTales’ // Ponydog Productions and Melbourne Fringe

‘TattleTales’ was entrancing.

For as long as our world has been around, there have been stories. From generation to generation, storytelling has been a favoured mode of communication. Our media is reliant on stories. Our lives revolve around stories. With it all around us, it then makes sense therefore that this year’s Melbourne Fringe offers a show dedicated to this art form. And as every good story does, ‘TattleTales’ is sure to be remembered for years to come.

The brainchild of Sydney-based Ponydog Productions, ‘TattleTales’ is an immersive storytelling experience where each performance is guaranteed to be unique. The enigmatic Storyteller (Davey Seagle) weaves an improvised, detail-laden tale with the aid of audience-drawn tarot cards. With fate and chance playing such key roles in this style of performance, audiences are sure to revel in the skillfulness of the Storyteller’s ability to come up with a fable on the spot. 

Since its debut in 2018 at the London Horror Festival, ‘TattleTales’ has amassed considerable recognition for its performance style. Having recently been nominated for the Best Immersive Award at this year’s Sydney Fringe Festival, Ponydog Productions have brought their show south of the border to Victorian audiences for the first time. Staged in the equally mysterious cellar of the East End wine bar Bard’s Apothecary, ‘TattleTales’ provides audiences with an hour of haunting, yet beautifully rich storytelling.

As audiences descend the narrow stairs into the theatre space of Bard’s Apothecary, they are greeted by a cosy collection of chairs, drink tables, and a lounge. Set Designer Phoenix Mae, assisted by Amy Rose Jackson, brilliantly decorated the room to evoke a mystical, yet somewhat welcoming atmosphere. At the pinnacle of the room, sat a small table draped in a tangerine velvet cloth, with candles, a crystal ball, and tarot cards sitting atop it. Celtic music permeates the room with haunting chords of the flute and mandolin. The brick wall standing behind is adorned with fairy lights flashing red, green, and blue. The glow illuminates the face of Seagle who sits at the table waiting for his audience patiently. Seagle uses his tarot cards to ‘read’ the futures of two women in the front row, captivating the audience even before the show has officially begun. A hush falls across the crowd, and we’re ready to hear the night’s tale.

Seagle’s inscrutable presence on stage is aided by the resounding partnership of music and lighting throughout his performance. Lighting and Sound Designer Sophie Parker, establishes a discerningly calming atmosphere with a soundtrack that quietly beckons audiences into this crafted world of make-believe. This is equally supported by the limited lighting spread throughout the theatre space, which in turn, makes the fairy and candle lights seemingly brighter. As storytelling is so often reliant upon many of the senses working in tandem, the harmony with which Seagle’s performance and Parker’s design play is stellar.

It is clear that Ponydog Productions want the story that unfolds throughout ‘TattleTales’ to be the star. In keeping with this rhetoric, Costume Designer Alloquois Callaway-Hoilman and Stage Manager Natalie Baghoumian choose to keep the aesthetics of the show relatively simple. Seagle’s simplistic black attire nicely flows with the mysterious feeling of the show. This offers Callaway-Hoilman’s inclusion of a bone and rune necklace, black rings, and dynamic eyeliner upon Seagle a solid basis to define his character. Similarly, Baghoumian understands that the main focus of the show should be on the Storyteller. Her decision to provide the stage with a mystical feel, while keeping it subtle, aids the production immensely. It allows Seagle the opportunity to manipulate his character accordingly as he conjures up his nightly story.

Furthermore, Seagle sports two hats throughout ‘TattleTales’ – that of director and performer. In the case of the former, Seagle demonstrates a resolute passion for providing audiences with an authentically unique theatre experience. Having taught himself the art of tarot reading, Seagle devised ‘TattleTales’, in unison with Producer Aaron Cornelius and Co-Creator Lachlan Ruffy, as an immersive theatrical experience that bridges the gap between an audience and a performance. 

Every performance’s story is individual and based on the cards audience members pull from the deck. In this, Seagle skillfully marries his passion for entertaining with that of his knowledge of tarot lore, all while maintaining a calm, yet slightly disquieting demeanour throughout his performance. Without skipping a beat, Seagle deftly incorporates the meaning and lessons of specific cards into the story he weaves together. The intense focus and care Seagle places upon his craft resonate throughout the stories he tells. His meticulous imagination and world-building ensure his audiences will be hooked on his every word. 

Our world, both past, present, and future, is built upon the foundation of stories. They are the framework of our society and offer us all lessons that we are set to carry with us throughout our lives. It is this framework that makes Ponydog Productions’ ‘TattleTales’ so engrossing, as each story is different, yet equally influential. Melbourne Fringe has a history of providing performers with a space to share their art with the theatre-loving public. In ‘TattleTales’, this year’s Fringe patrons are guaranteed to hear a story well worth being told.

‘TattleTales’ performs until Saturday, 15 October at Bard’s Apothecary. For more information about this or other Melbourne Fringe shows, or to purchase tickets, visit their website.

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