Having visited the world of fairy tales for the last couple of days with Grimm Tales and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, it’s uncanny that something which I then picked totally at random turned out to have the same background. Three is, of course, a powerful number in the world of fairy so maybe there are forces at work that are beyond my comprehension… but you haven’t come here to listen to me getting all mystical, so let’s get on with the review.
45 North specialises in work by female-identifying and non-binary artists and has created a project for lockdown with the overall title of Written On The Waves. This currently consists of eight audio dramas so presumably the waves are of the air variety; they would seem to range in subject matter, style and format.
Intrigued by the title, I chose Lem ‘n’ Ginge: The Princess Of Kakos. This is written by Mary Higgins and Ell Potter, previously creators of two shows at the Soho Theatre, Fitter and Hotter and is described by them as a “sort of a hybrid of Shrek 2 and Angela Carter”. For if this is a fairy tale, it is one with a very obviously modern slant which spends as much time sending up the genre as it does in trying to replicate it.
Higgins and Potter find themselves in the land of Kakos where the princess has lost her voice or, at best, has had it stolen. As the king is threatening to cut out the tongues of all the other young women in the kingdom, simply because he can, the duo, rechristening themselves Lem ‘n’ Ginge, embark on a quest to track the lost voice down. As in any traditional tale they face a number of challenges and setbacks along the way including a not so traditional penis tree, Pip the leader of the gay ruffians and a frog who has to be kissed – naturally – although as its dead when this happens, events certainly don’t follow the usual trajectory. Interspersed with the main story are some sharp observations on the tendency of fairy tales to promote the idea of female silence, musings on sexuality and digs at actors who are a bit too precious.
All of this makes for fun listening as, out of budgetary considerations, Higgins and Potter play all the characters from king to commoner. Actually, that’s not quite true as they have drafted in the honeyed tones of Sharon D. Clarke as the narrator who has to work overtime to compensate for the lack of visuals such as giving a blow by blow account of a big fight scene. And, ultimately, she has a bigger role to fulfil; but that would be giving the game away. There are also spoofy musical numbers – one lifted directly from West Side Story and given new lyrics. Once again, this plays into the tradition of dramatised fairy tales while also sharply undercutting the genre. It does all get rather sweary at various points so probably best not to involve the little ones.
I enjoyed myself in the land of Kakos and found that each of the four short episodes was just right for the consumption of a cup of tea. If you’re in search of something a bit left field and quirky and that deconstructs some of the tropes of fairy tale telling, you should find the adventures of this dynamic duo a tonic. It might even give you a rather different slant on what we are doing when we tell these sorts of tales in which the women are often relegated to secondary positions.