Review of In the High and Far Off times by teacher Zuzanna Krasoczko
The Man Who Charmed All the School
The actor, storyteller, teacher and a magician of the word, Mr Geoffrey Norris gave us and our children the privilege of cherishing his extraordinary skills and gifts in the Warsaw Rudolf Steiner School, on 26th March 2002. The stories Mr Norris chose to share were two by Rudyard Kipling; from The Just-So Stories, the story of how the Elephant got his Trunk, and, from the Jungle Book, the story of the brave mongoose Rikki Tikki Tavi.
Mr Norris performed in a simple costume, that makes the storyteller now disappear, now represent different creatures and characters, and that partly accounts for the flavour of the ancient and timeless quality each true storyteller wears. Maybe this enchanted robe also helped him to conjure up the whole scenography, which he painted with subtle and broad movements of his hands and the whole body, with the very tone and volume of his amazingly potent and versatile voice, and, of course, with the live body of Rudyard Kipling's narration.
A journey it was - and rightly it is said about the storyteller that he or she is your leader into unknown lands, himself being ubiquitous. Mr Norris displayed his art of ubiquity by being at the same time in his narrated world just-under-creation and in the room with the children, who were never left alone. The storyteller's task is to at the same time describe and embody. Thus the children met and saw the cheeky little elephant and the threatening Nag the Snake. For each of many characters Mr Norris employed a different voice, a different movement, a different degree of lightness and heaviness.
This way, in his stories, creatures of the sky could talk to creatures of the soil, the creeping, the flying, the jumping beings each apperared in their right temperament, had conversations, and, all the more amazing, fights!
The artist also made his own music. Or, he was his music. Single-handed, by his music, his movement, even by directing his gaze just so, filled the room with outlandish flavour of India - by the strain of his own imagination, which was so potent that it drew everybody in.
But what is his greatest feat to admire, is that he made himself understood by an audience of very young pupils (the oldest were thirteen) whose knowledge of English can't be said to allow them to read the same stories. And the stories were delivered as the author put them. What I mean is, Mr Norris made his speech incredibly alive (no doubt drawing on the resources of his long experience of filling the word with its spiritual power), trusting the rhythms given it by the author, but at the same time reaching the clarity that, one could imagine, ancient magicians used to affect reality with their words. A word thus uttered will find its way straight to the pupil's soul, and its meaning will be absorbed directly, without reasoning. And the sound of the word will be remembered and preserved in some inner treasury.
The stories were at the same time funny and moving, and sometimes the audience feared for the character's life... Fifty very young and lively Polish children were completely charmed for over an hour. We are very thankful to Mr Norris for bringing some magic where it is needed.