Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the most topical of them all?
The recent release of Snow White and The Huntsman has got us thinking… if you haven’t yet realised how on trend fairytales are right now, then you must have either had your head buried deep into the sand or been stranded on a desert island for the past six months. So far this year Hollywood has been going fairytale mad – there have already been two versions of Snow White, with many more re-tellings of classic tales lined up for release next year. And it’s not just Hollywood – TV have been at it too, with series such as Grimm successfully drawing in audiences.
It’s easy to see why artists, producers, directors, film makers etc. choose to work with fairytales. On a creative level they are stories full of emotion and morals with rich characters and settings, and if you research even further back than the Brothers Grimm you can find a whole wealth of different versions to choose from. On a business level, with a fairytale comes a name and a brand. In theory audiences will deem fairytales as a safe bet – everyone knows the narratives and how different can they really be from the Disney version? Our answr is: a lot!
Take, for example, the latest Hollywood offering Snow White and The Huntsman. There is not a doe-eyed Princess in sight, as this fairest-of-them-all trains to become battle-ready and even saves her Prince Charming, played by moody actress of the moment Kristen Stewart. Now, we at Filskit Theatre are real advocates of challenging the fairytale Princess stereotype. We do it ourselves in our own version of Snow White where our Princess picks her nose and snogs a hand puppet. Whilst we personally feel that Hollywood is treading ever-so-slightly on our toes by churning out two versions of Snow White in one year (we like to kid ourselves that we came up with the idea first), it does have its up sides.
Many times during a performance we have scanned the audience and spotted a little girl eagerly dressed in her Disney shop Snow White costume, and whilst this is very cute it does hammer home just how different our version of this tale really is. Though we absolutely love Disney (have to say that Finding Nemo, Aladdin and Robin Hood are our firm favourites) it was never our intention to regurgitate it for the stage – quite the opposite in fact.
There seems to be a common belief that Disney is the bearer of some sort of gospel truth when it comes to fairytales – what they say goes, when actually the stories go much deeper and darker than a sweet girl singing to a poor unsuspecting bird.
This is where we believe the Hollywood blockbusters are actually doing us small scale theatre companies a favour. By presenting a new twist on a classic they’re saying that it’s OK to mess with the original, to make it modern and fresh. Of course we all know that already, but it does provide some affirmation for those less keen on the modern re-telling. They’re also building the hype, which is a band wagon just waiting to be jumped on. Don’t get us wrong, we are not saying “go and adapt a fairy tale, you’ll be rolling in it in no time” – there still has to be some artistic integrity. We’re just saying that if you are already working within the realms of fairytale, why not use the ‘Hollywood hype’ to your advantage?
Of course as in any good fairy tale, there is a nasty foreboding force waiting in the wings for its chance to pounce – one journalist has called the trend “fairytale fatigue”. It could be argued that the fairytale mayhem which currently grips us will begin to wear thin and leave audiences pleading for some new writing.
However, given the world’s continuous obsession with these dark tales, we’re not too worried. As artists we’ll just have to keep thinking of even more innovative and exciting ways to bring these brilliant stories to a new generation of fairytale lovers. It’ll keep us on our toes! And with Angelina Jolie taking the lead as Sleeping Beauty’s evil enemy in Maleficent next year, it looks like the fairytale gift is going to keep on giving for some time yet.