Edinburgh Fringe 2015
Worried about the outdated gender politics of Sleeping Beauty? Concerned that Hansel And Gretel is contributing to the obesity crisis? You’re not alone. This production seeks to give a voice to the unheard, motivation to the oppressed, and fresh linen to any princesses with a pea allergy ..
Three excitable kids are left in the care of the babysitter by their parents (who promise, as they step over Pumpkin the cat, that they’ll be home before midnight). Within moments, they’re already arguing over the logistical nightmares of various bedtime stories – surely the Princess who can feel a pea under an abundance of mattresses is the very worst example of high maintenance – and so they decide to tell their own versions of classic fairy stories. Not only do they have little patience for the more unbelievable aspects of the tales, but they are keen to excise the sexist elements for more modern tastes. What follows is a swift moving, witty and funny show.
The stories retold don’t veer too far off the paths we already know – Sleeping Beauty is still pretty much the most passive heroine in fairy stories for most of her own tale, while Hansel and Gretel are carted off to the deep dark forest by an evil stepmother – but the format of the show allows the characters to question and attack the more outdated elements of each bedtime story. There are very good gags that become almost meta: when it’s spotted that an evil stepmother has died ‘offstage’, it’s dismissed as the narrative contrivance that it is.
The girl who demands her bedtime stories is dismissed as ‘bossy’, which will strike a chord with any smart little girl in the audience who knows what she wants, but it’s she that will probably grow up to be JK Rowling one of these days. It’s she who questions the gender politics (and occasionally, just politics) of the stories that are being retold. There’s a neat attack on the happy ending of Sleeping Beauty that for older audiences will easily translate into a retelling of ‘just because you bought me dinner ..’, when the prince is genuinely confused that his help does not immediately translate into a romantic reward for him.
There is a lot of wit and humour here, and any mild problems with the script are pretty much unavoidable, since – despite the feminist leaning updating, Not Cricket Productions are still telling basically the same stories we know and love. That means that there’s not actually a lot of time for a lot of stories. The poster promises a fair amount of rejigged fairy stories, whereas in sixty minutes, we only have time for three. But they are three very well told tales, full of verve and humour, laced with a knowing wit. And while there is plenty for the grown-ups to enjoy, there are plenty of silly moments when the kids can join in, too.