The Story of Snow and Other True Tales According to Reet Petite

Mon 14th – Fri 18th August 2017

reviews

Dan Mahoney

at 09:38 on 16th Aug 2017

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As a medium, fairy tales have been twisted, revived and deconstructed time and time again over the years. For this year’s Fringe, the Duckegg Theatre Company are taking another crack at reframing the medium; adapting and reinterpreting famous stories in order to explore issues of identity and agency amongst young people. Armed with a scarily talented, young cast, ‘The Story of Snow’ is intriguing throughout and has some great moments, but it’s a show that’s not without its problems.

The framing device for the reinterpreted fairy tales that make up the bulk of the show sees two girls in a juvenile detention centre telling each other stories about family and the self through the allegorical lens of these tales. It’s worth reiterating just how good the school-age cast is here - Natalie Yates and Jordan Meriel are the leads who anchor the production in their performances and storytelling, but the entire ensemble is filled with talent. Actors take on multiple roles, construct and reconstruct the set and pull off effective musical numbers with ease, and it’s clear that this is a cast with a hell of a lot of promise for the future. Music is a constant presence throughout the show, subtly underpinning the storytelling with the feel of a true folk narrative and a sense of real lyricism at times.

Outside of the framing device, we essentially hear two stories, one a portmanteau of elements from Cinderella and Snow White and the other an adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood, both rooted in modern themes. The first story is probably the more effective of the two, combining an underlying examination of media portrayals of women with a healthy dose of humour and some interesting play with fairy tale tropes. A standout performance here comes from Laura Banks as a glamour-obsessed evil stepmother, who has great fun chewing the scenery with a combination of malice and comedy. The second segment based on Little Red Riding Hood is less successful for my money, if only because it feels a bit too ‘modern fairy tale by numbers.’ Whereas the first segment does interesting things with its fairytale setting, the transplantation of Little Red Riding Hood to an urban environment feels a little cliché and lacks the originality of the previous story. That being said it still has its moments, and features probably the funniest point of the show in a brilliant musical number, but the writing feels considerably less interesting than the first segment.

However where ‘The Story of Snow’ really fell apart for me was at the end. Without wanting to give too much away, an attempt to pull the narrative threads of the stories told by our protagonists together in the ‘real world’ fails to provide a satisfying conclusion and confuses matters somewhat. I think I get what the playwright was going for, but the execution is lacking. The writing also gets a bit clumsy here, with didactic messages poorly crowbarred in and some of the show’s underlying themes being brought to the surface in a way that feels at odds with the subtler material on display in the play’s best moments. ‘The Story of Snow’ succeeds when it lets its storytelling do the talking, but it leaves something to be desired when the characters stop just short of turning to the audience and telling us that these are Very Important Issues. Despite its flaws ‘The Story of Snow’ remains an interesting show with plenty of potential, but you may well leave wishing this team could be better utilised on a tighter script.

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Simona Ivicic

at 11:50 on 16th Aug 2017

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'The Story of Snow' is not your typical fairy tale story. Firstly, it is set in the HMP Young Offenders Institution in Hull (of all places) and features two rather witty cellmates Reet and Snow. The premise of the show is that through their storytelling they are able to explore and gain a deeper understanding of the reasons for their imprisonment and ultimately come to realise how they can create their own fairy tale ending.

But trust me, these girls in their fairy tales are not your average princesses. The way they re-imagine themselves in these tales is contemporary, with the odd Nike reference here and a casual Instagram selfie there. This contemporary tone is translated to their behaviour and gone are the days of seeing docile, repressed and silent women. Instead this show presents two very sassy, assertive and socially mobile females that dictate their own lives. Fairy tales by tradition are supposed to be didactic and provide powerful examples of idealistic models of behaviour, and particularly teach girls how to conform to the confines of a patriarchal society. However, this show presents tales that are refreshing and empowering as the protagonists discover their own identity and learn to take control of their own future.

Most impressive of all is how versatile this young cast of 17 really is. They are all individually competent, confident and musically talented as they perform live music on stage. The faint beating of a drum throughout the show adds pace and movement to the tale and reminds one of the oral tradition of storytelling. While the solo guitar performances show that they really can do it all. It is Laura Banks, who plays the archetype of the feisty evil stepmother, Stella, that particularly stands out as the one to watch as her vocal range and control is incredible. Amongst the recognisable stock characters, such as that of the evil stepmother and stepsisters and the pushover dad, there are some that emerge as gems of comedic brilliance. Mr Moo played by Sam Davies deserves a special shout out for his role that had the audience in fits of laughter.

The only real criticism for this play is the ending, which seems forced and out of place. The sudden final note on the construct of beauty in society and female empowerment came across as strained - as though the production felt that they had to end this fairy tale story with something of a moral. There are definitive moments that are inspiring and address our media manipulated society and the importance of establishing your own identity, but this ending is a bit of a let down.

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