Certain Dark Things presents the twisting tale of circus-bound Snow White. This is no traditional telling of Snow White’s story though: it is more haunting and dark with comedy slipped in at every opportunity. Inventive and quirky, this show promises to impress, and it certainly does – but I can’t help feeling a little underwhelmed.
What strikes me most about this fringe production is its individuality and uniqueness. Live music seeps effortlessly into the storytelling, and the use of physical theatre delves deeper into the original interpretations of the classic tale. Like ‘enchanted children’, wide-eyed and eager for something new, we see the stylised circus open for business. Here we watch as Snow White relives her past as the ensemble creates extraordinary shapes, poignant atmospheres and cleverly devised moments, not to mention the enchanting use of puppetry.
The Girl Who Cannot Die is hidden from view from the word go, making her into the prize act. While The Showman explains how each ‘freak’ belongs to his show, Snow White questions her purpose, eventually leading to her disputably tragic end.
It’s William Frazer as The Showman that holds this show together. His personability and energy engross the audience from start to finish as he commands the other characters with his intriguing narrative. We question if this is out of care or for his own good but, as the character that ties the moral meaning and purpose of the story together, his showmanship comes out and embraces the somewhat sceptical audience.
The placards and direct address are reminiscent of the Brechtian style and are employed purposefully to give relation to each character. As a slick ensemble piece, it seems strange that some people stand out as being better than others; however, Laura Romer- Ormiston and Sarah Morgan seem particularly peculiar and manage to enhance the eccentric, bizarre production. On top of this I am wildly impressed by the actor/musicians Claire Tipy, Charlotte Mafham and Joseph Tweedale. It takes some work to perform as enthrallingly as they do while playing instruments that are essential in the production.
The energy wavers throughout this show: the beginning and end bounce with enthusiasm and a necessity to tell us this twisted, innovative story, but the middle feels as though they have performed this show too many times. Maybe this is the reason that the circus elements and Snow White’s story don’t feel entirely tied together. I love the titles of each character, including ‘The Clown’ and ‘The Man With Two Brains’, but I didn’t completely understand their relevance to the fairytale. There needs to be some relation, other than the circus story, for these to fit together perfectly despite them being wonderfully entertaining additions.
This really is a striking, magical show. Each element of it slots effectively together to make it a creative retelling of one of the most famous fairy tales of all time, and the concept is intriguing and engrossing. Unfortunately, on this night, I just felt like it was missing the energy to make it a truly superb production.
With the Best Fest Award Winner Brighton Fringe 2015 title under its belt, and raving reviews from other critics, there is no doubt this company is ingenious. Perhaps it was just me on this evening that didn’t fall into the distorted world and felt unsympathetic towards our ‘Girl Who Cannot Die’.
Look out for Certain Dark Things though. They have something special and enthralling about them; you wouldn’t want to let this circus entirely pass you by.
The Girl Who Cannot Die played at the Rose Theatre Studio on 14 July. It is next playing at The Secret Garden Party. For more information and tickets, see the Certain Dark Things company website.