Fairytales Gone Bad

Review by Flossie Waite
Half Moon presents a Joseph Coelho production
Reviewed at Half Moon Theatre

Ever since the Brothers Grimm first published their fairytales, there’s been an effort to clean them up. Not entirely unwarranted (have you ever read their version of Sleeping Beauty? Don’t.)  but still – each generation has sweetened them with another heap of sugar to leave unrecognizabley syrupy, saccharine stories. Fairytales Gone Bad quickly undoes a lot of this work, by offering thrillingly grisly, darkly funny alternatives.

Writer and performer Joe Coelho has created two different plays for two different age groups (3+ and 6+) but with the same idea in mind: stripping down familiar fairytales to their gruesome guts. There are no diamond-digging dwarves or singing crabs – if these were Disney films, they’d focus on Walt’s cryogenically frozen remains.

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For ages 3+ there’s Granny Locks, an evil 94-year old who finds the three bears’ food and furniture far too nice for her tastes, and The Monstrous Duckling, who eats anything in its way – be it sibling or squirrel. The 6+ age group are treated to Zombie-rella, in which poor Cinders slips on poo and falls to her death, and Blood Red Hood, where there’s no choice but to root for the wolf, ruthlessly hunted by a little girl with a blood-stained cloak and an axe. While the tales riff off well-known stories, they dispense with formula, making them far more interesting –  it’s impossible to guess what Coelho’s brain will come up with next.

The play for younger audiences involves lots of imaginative props – all the puppets from The Monstrous Duckling are made of cleaning utensils, for example. However, as a one-man show, it all gets a bit too fiddly, and at times can be a bit distracting. The play for older audiences involves a lot less, and whilst this is a good nod to the oral storytelling tradition that originated these fairytales, it’s aurally demanding. The natural conclusion to this seemingly Goldilocks-inspired paragraph is to say that something in the middle of the two would be ‘just right’.

Fairytales Gone Bad might seem more appropriate to Halloween but there’s something nice about starting a new year with a fresh outlook on old tales. As Coelho himself said: “You always expect a beautiful princess – in 2016 we can do better than that.”

Follow Children’s Theatre Reviews @ctheatrereviews 

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