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Reviews/Theatre

Honesty is at the heart of successful storytelling

28 June 2021

Now in its eleventh year, Barefaced Stories’ success lies in the honesty and vulnerability of its storytellers, observes Claire Trolio.

Barefaced Stories: Here Comes Trouble, hosted by Andrea Gibbs ·
The Rechabite Hall, 24 June 2021·

The room is abuzz as my friend and I slip into The Rechabite Hall on a nippy Thursday night. As we shimmy to our seats through the raucous crowd, past a stage set with industrial fencing and a neon sign, it feels like we’ve stumbled into an underground cage fight. What we’re assembled for is the June instalment of Perth’s popular, monthly storytelling night, Barefaced Stories.

Inspired by New York’s live storytelling event The Moth, Barefaced Stories was launched back in 2010 by best mates Andrea Gibbs and Kerry O’Sullivan when once a month they’d take over Northbridge small bar The Bird. It’s grown a lot since those humble beginnings: no longer Perth’s best kept secret, Barefaced is huge, consistently selling out The Rechabite Hall. There’s a mix of loyal regulars and first timers in the crowd this week.

By now, Barefaced Stories is a well-oiled machine that has always remained true to its original form. There’s a theme each month (for June it’s “Here Comes Trouble”) and the evening involves six raconteurs sharing a tale based around this phrase. Applications to be part of Barefaced Stories are open to anyone, and here lies its brilliance.

It’s real people telling their own stories, not necessarily experienced performers.

The standard, however, remains very high. With co-founder O’Sullivan now residing in Melbourne, it’s professional funny lady Gibbs who hosts these events, steering the ship with ease.

After an opening gambit from Gibbs, involving the first half of a side-splitting story, Bethan Winn takes to the stage for her first time with an exhilarating confessional from her teenage years. Next up Shane Hodge generously takes us into his darkest days of depression and anxiety, before Eliza Smith’s tale of family high jinks balances one part bleakness with two parts hilarity.

After interval Gibbs has us on the edge of our seats as the eagerly anticipated second half of her very personal tale takes an unexpected turn. Seasoned storyteller Matt Roberts is up next, with an honest reflection of a time in his life that reminds me that nothing much needs to happen to make a good story, provided it’s crafted and delivered well. Eric Schwarz has our hearts breaking as he reflects on the death of a parent, but ultimately leaves us with a feeling of triumph. Megan Meyers rounds out the evening by revealing a rollercoaster of a love affair.

With such varied material, that involves participants wearing their proverbial hearts on their sleeves, it’s vital that Gibbs cultivates a safe and respectful environment. No easy feat in such a large room, but she’s a master at this game and it seems to come effortlessly. She commands the stage – you know who’s boss – but her stage presence is honest and she’s relatable. Gibbs makes the audience feel like they’re a community. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of it?

The scheduling is well balanced, as the audience is taken through the spectrum of human emotion. Tears of laughter are backed up by tears of sadness, but we are always brought back to a sense of hope.

That’s what Barefaced Stories is all about: life’s chaos. The fact that the tales told are each so deeply personal and delivered with honesty and vulnerability is vital to the success of the event, and each performer oozes authenticity. Now in its eleventh year, Barefaced Stories hasn’t faltered on this value.

Barefaced Stories is held on the last Thursday of the month at The Rechabite Hall and the next edition will take place 29 July 2021. For a hit in between times you can subscribe to the Barefaced Stories podcast.

Pictured top is Eliza Smith, whose tale of family high jinks is one part bleakness with two parts hilarity. Photo: Matthew Gedling

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Author —
Claire Trolio

Claire Trolio completed a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) at UWA. She writes about Western Australia for various digital and print media and owns a shop with her sister. For her, the spider swing is the ultimate in playground fun.

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  • Powerful personal work creates safe space

    An autobiographical account of mental illness offers a timely message of hope and love, writes Claire Trolio

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