Rebranding Beelzebub

Crick-Crack Club - Cube Cinema

"Crick" says the compere. "Crack!" reply the audience. "Crick crack!" he repeats "Crack crick!" say the audience. "Crack crick crack!" "Crick crack crick." And finally "Honour!" to which the audience calls out "Respect!"  

This is supposedly how you start a story telling session in French Honduras. Some English traveler communities go with "Boot!" and "Sock!"

The Cube "multiplex" is just off Stokes Croft, brews its own cola and is therefore quite possibly the coolest venue in the UK. The cinema looks as it did when it was a very-small second run art-house joint; and presumably as it did before that when it was a community theater. The front of house looks like a student bar.

The Crick Crack club is a performance storytelling outfit; they bill themselves as "Fairy Tales For Grown Ups." They perform in the Cube about once a month. Over the summer they erected a yurt in front of the Cathedral, and did fairy tales for grown ups and myths for children. Some of the adult fairy tales were very adult indeed.

Tonight it is the term of Tim Ralphs. He performs and extended piece entitled Rebranding Beelzebub. Only marginally a fairy tale; and rather in the same space as Douglas Walker's Santa Claus conspiracy theory. Ralphs is just as inventive and compelling as Walker, and his story is very nearly as mad. He isn't such a good actor; but his portrayal of the Devil -- quiet, sophisticated, reasonable -- will stay with the audience for some time. (He apologises for shutting the Serpent in his washing machine; and the Serpent replies "I was cast out of heaven, so this has been a relatively minor indignity.") 

Tim has met the Satan in the supermarket, coiled around some exotic fruit, and ends up taking him home to his flat for several months; during which period he tells him stories. There is a traditional tale of a cursed violin; a Tall Story about a hideous exhibit in the Weston-Super-Mare town museum; a Victorian ghost story about a vicar who brews diabolically delicious beer; and an entirely brilliant tale of a Faustian pact in an Internet cafe.

I was initially a bit thrown by the structure; I'd rather been expecting a collection of devil-themed folk tales. Tim says it would have been bad manners to tell them, because they normally involve the Devil being tricked by a crafty farmer. Once I'd grasped what was going on, I enjoyed it very much; the twists and turns of the final tale, culminating in the hero playing on-line Scrabble against Satan for his soul were devilishly clever. "Tim" keeps the far-fetched frame narrative going with conviction; and crucially, always plays the Devil chillingly straight. We almost believe he did travel up from Birmingham New Street with Satan in his back pack.

And he really does recite the Lord's Prayer backwards.

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