Mr D doesn't fit my stereotyped idea of a storyteller. For a start, the outfit's all wrong: he comes with bright red shoes, a swirly-patterned shirt, and an equally irreverent attitude to the stories he's going to tell. Together with his right-hand woman, Ebony Nightshade – who should really have equal billing in the title, since she has an equal role in the performance – he tells a quick-fire collection of stories from around the UK and Ireland, in a rough-and-ready but entertaining show.
The stories have a historical bent, full of saints and kings and local dignitaries, and Mr D sometimes follows up with an informative postscript explaining the context and concerns of their time. Overall it's a nicely varied collection, ranging from the years before the Norman Conquest right through to the nineteenth century; topics include the peril of sleeping on duty, a good-old fashioned deal with the Devil, and a haunting by a ghost Pekingese. A few of the endings were a little underwhelming – but on the plus side, staying away from the old favourites meant there was nothing in the show which I'd heard before.
The pantomime interactions between Mr D and Ms Nightshade deliver much of the humour. Sometimes, one of them tells a story, while the other acts it out like a sign-language interpreter gone rogue; at other times they each take a role, spanning the boundary between storytelling and theatre. It's all a bit of a scramble and the production values aren't exactly high, but they get away with it, because their cheerful charisma is more than enough to have the audience on their side.
And when the stories call for it, there are displays of genuine acting skill; Ebony Nightshade is amusingly convincing as a monkey, while Mr D makes a suitably alarming devil. It's a shame, then, that a framing story around Mr D's true identity doesn't really go anywhere. Perhaps it would add an extra something to the show if they stayed more consistently in the stage personas they've created for themselves.
But there's light-hearted audience interaction to enjoy, including one especially memorable moment involving a frog, and the overall vibe is of a lively experience shared. So, these aren't stories by the fireside or an audience with a Celtic bard – but Mr D and Ebony Nightshade have a worthy style of their own. Drop in and play along.