Until recently we at Filskit Theatre had never given much thought to the fact that we are an “all-female” company. The three founding members were brought together over a shared passion to create visually exciting work, rather than a desire to create a company solely made up of women. Therefore when it came to creating our re-telling of Snow White for children aged 5+, the obvious choice for us was to interpret the original tale minus the male characters of the dwarfs and prince. At the time this decision was born more out of necessity than out of the urge to make a statement. After all, when developing a new interpretation surely anything goes?
This does make our version of this well-loved tale very different from that of the familiar, doe-eyed singing Disney princess that has adorned many a screen over the years. Even our brochure blurb starts with the phrase “No dwarfs, no prince”, just to make extra sure there aren’t any misinterpretations.
But, like we said, we had never really given this much thought until recently. It was after a great performance at Stratford Circus back in December where the audience were given feedback forms and comment cards that our brains started to whirr. Thankfully the show seemed to go down really well and we received some excellent feedback, but there was one comment in particular that stood out and sparked us to write this blog. Here it is:
“We LOVED the interpretation. So good to see REAL hungry, happy females who don’t need princes. Very positive for my seven-year-old daughter. Wonderful. Thank you!”
When we set out to create Snow White, we were aiming for a fun, exciting and entertaining piece told in an innovative way. We always knew we didn’t want a sappy princess who is continually duped into consuming poisoned gifts. But of course our interpretation and the fact that the company is made up of women is adding another layer to the mix and inadvertently creating some feminist overtones. We are pleased that this parent picked up on that and seems to be encouraging it.
We feel that there is a common misconception among theatre-makers and audiences that children’s theatre has to be twee and delicate; even we have fallen into that trap ourselves. But that is definitely not the case. Children absorb so much information from the world around them that it seems pointless to continue to try and sell them the old fashioned gender stereotypes. Instead we want to create a world which is more reflective of the relationships that truly exist, in our case, with an additional murderous mother and magical bee thrown in for good measure. We’ve learned that you don’t necessarily have to be making a heavy, politically charged statement but we think it’s important to remember that children will read what they see in front of them. So instead of offering them ‘”someday my prince will come” we’ve gone for “…what prince?”
Of course we still scan the audience and see little girls dressed up in their Disney outfits. We would never discourage that as it shows that they are excited about their trip to the theatre and the show. And we have to say that even though our Snow White picks her nose, scoffs chocolate and spits water instead of singing in a rather screechy soprano to unsuspecting animals, the children still love her.