Story on Stage

Duncan Macmillan won second prize in the Bruntwood during the first competition and his play MONSTER went on to be produced in The Studio at the Royal Exchange. He also became Pearson writer in residence at the Exchange. To read more about Duncan, click here.

We are cavemen. That is, our brains haven’t changed since our ancestors gathered around a fire to hear the hunters tell stories of their adventures. They would learn important lessons not by receiving cold facts, but by using their empathy and imagination. The better the listeners were at putting themselves in the stories they heard, the more likely they were to survive long enough to pass on their genes. In short, through natural selection, we have become a species who give a particular quality of attention to the words ‘Once upon a time’ because what follows may just save our lives.

Click through the numbers to read Duncan’s series of exercises.


  1. Loved the oral retelling advise and the subversion of traditions and expectations incredibly useful.

    Thank you.

    by Colette Lewis - March 9, 2011 at 11:00 am

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