The Fringe debut from No Hands Theatre is that wonderful kind of show that encourages you to suspend reality, accepting all of the silly and wonderful things that the performers bring to the stage. The Fablesmiths stars two eponymous storytellers who are in charge of keeping all of the universe’s stories and folk tales safe. It is of course storytelling shows like this that really keep old legends alive. Throughout The Fablesmiths, the show proves that it recognises its own value and purpose. This kind of self-awareness fuses with family-friendly comedy and creativity to deliver a fantastical crowd-pleaser.
It is a simple set up with a blank background, sparse decoration and some props. Yet it encourages total immersion, especially for younger audience members. The stories – all real legends – are performed with lovable energy and pantomime. The tales are given a humorous and accessible makeover for a family audience without losing the core of what each story is about. The show makes varied use of colourful props and rapid costume changes in a way that adds a flavour of bounding passion to the show. At one point, the demands of character swapping form part of the joke, yet never do Fablesmith One or Fablesmith Two let their exuberance fizzle out. Their telling of the stories varies with each legend, and their consistency is remarkable to watch as the hour unfolds.
What comes across most is how the pair find such joy in collecting and retelling old stories in ways that feel new and inventive. It’s a joy that the whole audience to varying degrees can be a part of. Looking around the crowd, you will see children craning forward in their seats, revelling in the imaginative floundering and pretence of the show. Occasionally silly, repeatedly funny and always fascinating, this is a strong first showing from No Hands Theatre and a wonderful ode to the power of stories.