1st Edition

Contemporary Storytelling Performance Female Artists on Practices, Platforms, Presences

By Stephe Harrop Copyright 2023
    258 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book focuses on a rising generation of female storytellers, analysing their innovation in interdisciplinary collaboration, and their creation of new multimedia platforms for story-led performance.

    It draws on an unprecedented series of in-depth interviews with artists including Jo Blake, Xanthe Gresham-Knight, Mara Menzies, Clare Murphy, Debs Newbold, Rachel Rose Reid, Sarah Liisa Wilkinson, and Vanessa Woolf, while Sally Pomme Clayton’s reflections on her extraordinary four-decade career provide long-term context for these cutting-edge conversations. Blending ethnographic research and performance analysis, this book documents the working lives of professional storytelling artists. It also sheds light on the practices, values, aspirations, and achievements of a generation actively redefining storytelling as a contemporary performance practice, taking on topics from ecology and maternity to griefwork and neuroscience, while working collaboratively with diverse creative partners to generate new, inclusive presences for a traditionally-inspired artform.

    This book will be of great interest to students, scholars, and practitioners in drama, theatre, performance, creative writing, education, and media.

    List of Figures

    List of Interviews




    0.1 Storytelling as Professional Performance

    0.2 Female Artists as Storytellers

    0.3 Talking to Storytellers

    0.4 Storytelling Presences

    Chapter 1 – Storytelling Presences

    1.1 Sarah Rundle, The Poorest Hee (2013)

    1.2 Clare Murphy, The Nine Muses of Queen’s Crescent (2022)

    1.3 Jo Blake, Blodeuwedd Untold (2018)

    1.4 Summary: Contemporary Presences

    Chapter 2 – Storytelling Authorship

    2.1 Alys Torrance, Up Endings! (2021)

    2.2 Rachel Rose Reid, Silence (2018)

    2.3 Mara Menzies, Blood and Gold (2019)

    2.4 Summary: Authoring Storytelling Performances

    Chapter 3 – Devising Storytelling

    3.1 Sarah Liisa Wilkinson, The Girl and The Snake Witch (2018)

    3.2 Alys Torrance, Stoopid (2019)

    3.3 Debs Newbold, Outrageous Fortune (2020)

    3.4 Summary: Devising New Storytellings

    Chapter 4 – Aural Storytelling

    4.1 Sarah Liisa Wilkinson, The Devil’s Violin (2019)

    4.2 Laura Sampson, Three-Crossing River (2022)

    4.3 Debs Newbold, Lost in Blue (2022)

    4.4 Summary: Aurality and Story Performance

    Chapter 5 – Sites of Storytelling

    5.1 Tamar Eluned Williams, Pathways/Llwybrau (2020)

    5.2 Vanessa Woolf, Trees (2021) and Ghosts of the Thames (2020)

    5.3 Tim Ralphs and Sarah Liisa Wilkinson, The Game of Seven Candles (2021)

    5.4 Summary: Sites of Storytelling

    Chapter 6 – Story-Performance in New Media

    6.1 Mara Menzies, The Giver of Joy (2021)

    6.2 Jo Blake, What Do You See With Your Eye to the Keyhole? (2020)

    6.3 Xanthe Gresham-Knight, Kitchen Goddess (2020)

    6.4 Summary: Story, Media, and Emergent Spaces

    Chapter 7 – Story-Performance and Social Practice

    7.1 Rachel Rose Reid, Sofa Story Club (2020)

    7.2 Xanthe Gresham-Knight, Goddess Lounge (2020-21)

    7.3 Pyn Stockman, Tell It To The Bees (2022)

    7.4 Summary: Making Social Rituals

    Chapter 8 – Storytelling and Slam

    8.1 Clare Murphy, Myth Off (2011)

    8.2 Lucy Lill & Alys Torrance, Women Who Gave No F**ks (2019)

    8.3 Summary: Story, Slam, and Inventing Traditions


    9.1 Sally Pomme Clayton, The Frog Princess Punked (2019)

    9.2 Contemporary Storytelling Performance



    Stephe Harrop is Associate Professor of Drama at Liverpool Hope University. She is also a contemporary storyteller, creating and touring work across the UK and beyond.