Battersea Arts Centre, London – until 30 December 2017
Battersea Arts Centre’s family Christmas show for people aged 5 and up is far from the Disney version of Snow White. The children’s show by RashDash, creators of naked, feminist, Edinburgh hit Two Man Show, is also far from conventional kids’ theatre. Combining their woman-led, political ethos with the use of live music, the company reclaims femininity and appropriates the traditionally patriarchal adventure of fairytales in this spirited show for all ages.
The design is striking – skeletal trees built from scaffolding poles flank a stage of platforms and musical instruments. Signboards help keep track of the date and location as Snow White and her sister Rose Red journey through a wild landscape in search of their new friend, Bear and contend with the strange little man with the long beard who they keep running into.
But RashDash haven’t quite figured out how to cater their work to their target audience. Most holiday fare is focused on families, and the kids in the audience certainly engage. There are too many clever, meta-theatrical references and sophisticated jokes for children, and whilst the adults have plenty of chuckles, these certainly aren’t needed for the story. It’s also a good half an hour too long, even with the interval.
That said, it’s smashing fun and the soundtrack to this gig-theatre show – its strongest feature – is an energetic mix of folk, gypsy-punk and a bit of hip hop. It doesn’t patronise young people, and the story is easy enough to follow. It’s female-centred, sexually inclusive (though all white) and challenges traditional hero and baddie stereotypes. Though there’s a love story, it’s intertwined with helping those you care about and bravery in the face of obstacles.
This bold, genre-bending needs some focusing, but it has a strong aesthetic and a great message for children, particularly girls. The music is fabulous and the story compelling even if there’s a touch too much baggage in its way.
Snow White and Rose Red runs through 30 December.
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