Fairy Tales and life – some musings as Princess and the Pea opens

I wrote these words a couple of weeks ago.  In those short weeks… through the brilliance and energy of the cast, creative and production team Princess and the Pea has sprung into life.

Here’s what I wrote…

How on earth has seeing Medea prompted me to scribble words about our (Unity) Christmas show for Under 12s and their families Princess and the Pea?

duncan with a candleMaybe its because my brain is a little weird like that ( maybe that tiny fragment of a Hans Christian Anderson story is too much on my brain…)

Or maybe its coincidence.

Don’t worry – Princess and the Pea is not about to take a very dark turn. The team behind Rumplestilsken (director Nina Hajiyianni, writer Kevin Dyer and composer Patrick Dineen) are back in place to ensure it’s going to be an extra special family treat, packed full of fun, wit and bags of invention. But seeing Rachael Cusk’s radical reinterpretation of Medea after a week of Homotopia performances, has me musing (yet again) on representation in the theatre.

I scurry to the bookshelves and find my copy of Angela Carter’s book of collected fairytales:-

‘Fairy tale families are, in the main, dysfunctional units in which parents and step-parents are neglectful to the point of murder and sibling rivalry to the point of murder is the norm’.

Marina Warner, quoted on the back cover, adds

‘For [Carter] fantasy always turns back its eye to stare back at reality, never losing sight of material conditions’

In our Princess and the Pea the girl is very real. Not a fairy tale princess, but a hard edged lass whose travelled from a far off land in a search of sanctuary and safety. She’s very definitely from the school of hard knocks. A brilliant survivor, a true hero, and very much ‘one of us’. A girl who, I suspect, will feel more ‘real’ to the thousands of under 12s who will see the show either with their school or families.

You could argue we are denying the hundreds of ‘Let it Go’ singing Elsa fans who will see the show their moment of Princess fantasy.  I’d suggest we are telling a different Happily Ever After, a story which, as Warner has it, never loses sight of material conditions. And that the ‘Elsa’ moment will come from a very different, and rather surprising quarter….

And isn’t that the joy of Christmas shows!

the villagers

To book tickets for Princess and the Pea see here
For more information on the Almeida production of Medea see here


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