Snow White: The Way through the woods

Tue 16th – Sun 21st August 2011

reviews

sophie ainscough

at 14:38 on 17th Aug 2011

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Written by Paul Cooper, Snow White: The Way Through the Woods is a dark combination of the classic and contemporary, with an orchestra interwoven throughout.

The fairytale of Snow White, told as a bedtime story to a young boy, becomes an unnerving reality as he is found in the forest by the squire ordered to murder Snow White. Entering another world, he lacks a story of his own, and the script circles around this idea of plot, something the narrator believes himself subjugated to, the queen its self proclaimed driving force. This presentation of the characters’ lives, considering whether a story one exists within is necessarily one’s own, is an intriguing and original idea. However at times the plot is slow to progress and fails to complete engage its audience, one member of the audience leaving around half way through. Whilst the various threads of the narrative are tied together well, areas such as Snow White’s belief in her father’s madness are rather too briefly introduced and dismissed, and would have benefited from further development.

The string orchestra adds to the drama of the performance in a crescendo of sound, its score composed by Edward Bell. However, these moments of drama often became more about the music than the plot. Given the comparatively low volume of the spoken lines at times the words and music worked against each other rather than in unison. This was even the case in song, such as the three dwarves’ song over Snow White’s deathbed, which was difficult to hear. The storyline adheres to its ghastly, sinister focus, Snow White’s mother dying in a blood bath of red ribbon and fabric pulled out of her by three spirits. The exchange of props is clumsy at times, with the blood of the queen clearly revealed as red ribbon and fabric as the scene finishes. This reduces the intended impression of horror and the believability of the performance. The queen’s evil laughter after deeds of cruelty is irritating instead of chilling, although her rapid tone changes as she shifts from coaxing to cruel are appropriately inconsistent and unnerving.

Indeed as a whole this adaption of Snow White, whilst showing inventiveness and originality, is unfortunately rather unmemorable as a performance, forming an incomplete transformation of the much loved fairy tale.

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Madeleine Stottor

at 15:18 on 17th Aug 2011

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When staging a well-known fairytale like Snow White, it is perhaps difficult to keep an audience’s attention. Chances are that everyone knows the story already – so do you stick to what they know, and offer a traditional take on a classic, or do you twist it, and try to engage your audience by offering them something brand new? ‘Two Shades of Blue’ attempts at this year’s Fringe to do the latter, using an original score by Edward Bell and a new script by Paul Cooper to present a darker tale than we’re used to. Unfortunately, ‘Snow White: The Way Through the Woods’ doesn’t quite work, its take straddling an uncomfortable middle ground between traditional and innovative.

Throughout this production, there is a narrator on stage, his verse interludes providing some of the most effective moments of the play. We open with a young boy being told a bedtime story by his mother, but once she leaves and he falls asleep, the story continues, mutating into a darker version of Snow White. This manifests itself in a more explicit and violent tale than usual, referencing incest, murder, and madness. The seven dwarves become three rebel nobles, and the witch enacts her spells using black-masked, whispering creatures. The language of the script is nicely poetic, employing fairytale conventions, and the musical score is beautiful.

In most other respects, however, this production falls flat. The music reflects the story well, building in tempo and changing pitch to mirror mood, but is used seemingly randomly throughout. Twice the orchestra is accompanied by singing, again apparently randomly. The company members are not singers, as is particularly clear during the second song. In both, the diction is poor and discerning the words difficult. The story plods along, without making any real changes to the original and what changes are made are often illogical and poorly explained, if at all. Snow White herself appears to have magical powers, judging from some strange hand movements she makes, but this is never explicitly referenced or used. The boy at the beginning turns up in the fairytale-dream world, wanders about meeting the storyteller-narrator (someone whose role is, again, incredibly ambiguous), and then becomes Snow White’s Prince. The play’s ending is unclear; there are several points as which it feels like it might end, but then stutters on.

The set and costumes are good, and everything about this production looks right, including the actors. Snow White has hair as black as ebony and skin as white as snow, for example. But it feels almost as though they have been cast for looking the part, rather than being able to act it. It is an ambitious attempt to take Snow White on a new, darker journey into the woods, but it stumbles considerably on its path.

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