A feast of fairy tales was presented to enthusiastic audiences at Presdales School on Wednesday 22nd – Friday 24th February, 2017.
Carol Ann Duffy’s adaptation of the tales provided opportunities for girls throughout the school to work together to produce an imaginative and lively cluster of plays. Audiences found themselves moving from venue to venue to watch three different plays, passing among menacing trees who murmured, ‘The trees are not your friends…’ as they did so.
Hansel and Gretel was staged in a magically transformed gym, where a starlit sky hung low and the winter cold of the story was suggested by lighting. The story was performed in binary, with two Hansels, two Gretels, two weak fathers – and two bitter, cruel mothers. The cast picked up lines skilfully as now one Hansel spoke and now the other, keeping the pace brisk and the audience enthralled. Two evil witches, played by Amber Moylan and Amelia Acheson, cackled with delicious menace and threatened cannibalism – until outwitted by a pair of cany Gretels (Emma Roberts and Jessica Hancox). A brace of Hansels, confidently portrayed by Ella Walsh and Emily Wilson, led the way to safety, leaving the audience comfortably believing in ‘happily ever after’. The stylised stage and costume allowed the cast to move fluidly from woodcutter’s cottage to forest to the witch’s sugary home, while story books were transformed in the twinkling of an eye to birds flying about the actors’ heads.
The story of Ashputtel, more familiar to British audiences as Cinderella, took place in the appropriately darkened Drama Studio, where the hapless Ashputtel, played by Sophie Brown, was taunted and bullied by her stepmother (Emily Murphy) and not two, but three stepsisters with beautiful faces and thorny hearts (Holly Davidge, Emily Lomas and Madison Hunter). Ashputtel’s magical assistance came from a wonderful tree growing from her mother’s grave and suggested by lights and leaves growing up the studio wall and curving over the heads of the audience. The Prince’s pursuit of Ashputtel was exactly as expected – but any comfortable, nursery snugness was driven right out as the desperate step-sisters allowed their mother to cut off toes and heels in order to cram their feet into the tiny, glittery shoe. Still more shocking was the blinding of the wicked step-sisters as punishment for their cruelty!
The final play, staged in the hall, was Snow White with two Snow Whites sensitively performed by Sage Farrant-Barnes and Micaela Addison-Kemp. The evil queen was represented by three actors (Elena Simou, Sophie Sadler and Connie Robinson) who repeated each other’s words to give the impression of a crescendo of menace. The seven dwarfs proved rather bossy – but sweetly protective. When at last justice caught up with the evil queen, it proved unexpectedly vicious: she was issued with iron shoes and forced to dance herself to death!
Audiences exclaimed over the darkness of the fairy tales and were delighted by the polished performances they had seen. The production was enhanced by atmospheric music created by Emily Murphy, Gracie Leenders, Emily Wilson and Safia Sipi. The play, produced by Miss Sally Ward, Ms Anna Hobbs and Miss Louise Chapman, was Miss Ward’s first production at Presdales since taking over as Head of Drama – and we look forward to the next one.