Photos - Jon Green
In the intimate Enright Studio the scene was beautifully lit in autumnal tones. The only set was a carpet of plane tree leaves, used to great effect by the cast to represent everything from forest floor to handfuls of precious jewels. A clever cast of eighteen 2nd year Music Theatre students each adopted several roles in this delightfully dark adaption of four Brothers Grimm tales.
Eerie sound effects set the scene for the woodcutter’s hovel where his second wife is determined to rid the home of her costly step-son and daughter. Hansel and Gretel are led into the woods. The use of fluorescent white pebbles laid in a trail by Hansel was an effective theatrical device. Not so fortunate the breadcrumb trail. A white dove leads the pair to the gingerbread house of the blind, but olfactorily-skilled witch. Her wicked intent is obvious but, as we all know, Gretel pushes the witch into the oven and finally a happy reunion with their (suddenly single) father ensues.
The Musicians of Bremen is perhaps less well known. It centres around a group of animals who form a troupe of musical runaways. This gave some opportunity for the excellent singing and sound effects to be aired by the cast as we were introduced to a donkey, a hound dog, a cat and a cockerel. Deep in the forest, four would-be robbers are effectively repelled by sheer cunning and animal wit. All ends happily.
Ashputtel, the story we know as Cinderella, was a very dramatic rendition with evocative phrases such as “faces white as snow, hearts black as sin”. There were unfamiliar references such as the hiding of Ashputtel in the dovecote on the first visit of the wife-seeking prince. These nuances served the audience to feel we were being let into more of the real Grimm stories and subtexts. As the childhood recipient of the book of gruesome tales by the Brothers Grimm, I was delighted to hear the squeals of pain as the horrid step-sisters cut off their toes and heels, in turn to fit into the slipper taken by the prince. Yet again a happy outcome for the hard-done by char-girl.
So to Snow White another tale of “so as you sow, so shall you reap”. The beloved (good) queen wishes for a child. She pricks her finger sewing and the drops of blood on the white linen and the ebony windowsill inspire this hope. “Lips, red as blood, skin, white as snow, hair, black as ebony”. After her early demise (again!) her husband remarries to a vain younger queen. Hence the familiar “mirror, mirror on the wall” sequence. Even more interesting was the use by the cast of height differentials to portray the seven dwarves. It was brilliant in execution. Vertically frozen Snow White instead of in a horizontal glass coffin was a bit of a surprise but we accustomed ourselves to this device. Luckily the dwarfs, after reluctantly releasing the coffin to the prince, trip up and the poisonous apple is regurgitated. A jolly wedding feast scene is enhanced by the spectre of the wicked queen dancing in fire-heated shoes until she drops dead. It’s all good fun!
Lastly the audience was introduced to a fable entitled The Magic Table, The Gold Donkey and the Cudgel in the Sack. In this long and convoluted story a poor tailor with 3 sons and 1 daughter is poverty stricken. He entreats his sons’ help. The eldest, a joiner, arrives with a magic table which will produce food for family and guests on command. The second, a miller’s apprentice, arrives with a donkey which spits out gold (at both ends!). The youngest son an apprentice turner, arrives with a cudgel which on command, leaps from its sack to vanquish enemies and foes. As fate would have it a villainous landlord has robbed them. Retribution takes place in the form of a cudgel attack, the return of the magic table and the fabulous gold-giving donkey. A huge family feast ensues.
I cannot pinpoint performances here. This was an ensemble piece of the highest order. I can however add that the lighting, sound and set were excellent and that Lauren Ross deserves plaudits for her inspired costumes. One minute attractive biscuit coloured rags and the next a wonderful confection of ruffled black skirts that all somehow conveyed princess, step-sister and step-mother.
A clever evening’s theatre which goes to give us hope for future productions and careers.
WAAPA Musical Theatre tickets are notoriously hard to procure, the theatre is small and the demand high, nevertheless here are the booking details -
WA Academy of Performing Arts presents
Venue: Enright Studio
Dates/Times: Friday 18, Saturday 19, Monday 21, Tuesday 22, Wednesday 23,Thursday 24, March 2011 @ 7.30pm
Tickets: $22.00 - $17.00
Bookings: 08 9370 6895