The intriguingly vague description for Figments and Dust, this year’s PBH Free Fringe show by Sheep Theatre, warns that “stories are inescapable, in the end”. It sounds rather ominous, and the four performers gathered in front of the small crowd under Clerk’s Bar are indeed clad in forbidding costumes; three women wear white, grey and black cloaks, with masks partially covering their faces. When narrator Alex Marsh starts speaking, it’s clear that the audience are in for the kind of oral storytelling ideally suited to a campfire in the middle of a deep dark wood.
Appropriately, Marsh’s piece – he is the writer as well as the narrator – starts off in the woods; a framing narrative sets the scene for a three fantastical tales that play with religious and fairy tale references. Marsh is a talented narrator, switching between humour and soberness and reeling off an incredible amount of words without hesitation, and his rich imagery and elaborate description are reminiscent of Angela Carter’s tales.
The three women, who take it in turns to tell their stories, are also excellent. Suchitra Sebastian as Mother uses her powerful voice particularly effectively. At times, the noisy pub upstairs intrudes into the performance; the show would undoubtedly be better suited to a quieter setting, where the audience could get lost in the tales.
Overall, it’s a well-executed and intense hour. Parts can feel clichéd – the third story departs little from traditional fairy tales – but this semi-familiarity is perhaps partly the point, working to recreate the feeling of childlike wonder.