In the bar of the Traverse Theatre, the Manipulate festival offers an evening which brings together storytelling, performance and music to tell stories of kings, blind children and death. Who are there to tell the tale? None other than The Fooligan and The Bridges of Madness.

Playing the role of The Fooligan, Al Seed is the storyteller for the performance – supported by the laid-back and subtle blues/jazz band The Bridges of Madness. The performance has a dark cabaret feel, infused with grotesque and macabre humour. Wearing a large fat suit while sporting white face paint with deep dark eyes, The Fooligan tells the tale of a storyteller and his encounter with a king. The spoken-word element of the show is broken up with songs, including an eerie version of the Velvet Underground song “Candy Says“. In the original, Lou Reed infused slice of life with images of darkness and discomfort; here, Seed builds on this by exaggerating every syllable, bestowing the song with a feeling of dread and despair. Similarly, a version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” takes this a step further; if that song felt creepy before, then in the hands of The Fooligan and The Bridges of Madness it is down right disturbing.

The band consists of David Paul Jones on piano, Davide Rinaldi on percussion and Emma Smith on Double Bass. As with the storyteller, they look like an Edward Gorey sketch come to life. Throughout the performance, their music remains understated and inconspicuous as the narrator delivers his series of dark and sinister tales.

The bar setting is perfect for The Fooligan and The Bridges of Madness. The use of popular music works well within the context of the performance, though it could have easily felt jarring in the wrong hands. This point of the piece is expressed perfectly in the closing rendition of the Shakespeare’s Sister classic “Stay”, which confirms the haunting, sinister feel of the play, completely emphasising the darkness and dry humour of the show.