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Saturday, March 05, 2022

REVIEW: Fringe Festival - Disenchanted: A Cabaret of Twisted Fairy Tales – Eliane Morel - Online

'Disenchanted' is a collection of songs that take the side of fairytale characters who feel they’ve been misrepresented and whose real stories have been overlooked by history and folklore.  This is their chance to put the record straight. 

For this show we visit the 17th Century of salon of Madame d’Aulony, known as the ‘Godmother of Fairy Tales’, for a subversive reinterpretation of some of old favorites (Madame d’Aulony was the one who originally coined the phrase ‘fairy tales’ or contes de fees). 

As a one woman show, Morel carries the plot and the music by herself, switching costumes and scenes with the help of her partially slightly unreliable ‘magic mirror’ (effectively a Renaissance version of Zoom, complete with glitches and Wi-Fi outages).   Normally, this show would all be on the stage  (as it was in Fringe Festivals in Adelaide and Sydney) but because of you know what, it’s all online.  She must instead, perform to a screen that gives back nothing, which must be hard for an actor used to a live response.  She delivers a plenty of witty one-liners and throwaways that, on stage would bring the house down.  Alas, on video they do fall a little flat, with no interjecting laughter or audience response, it does feel a little flat.  Morel has to engage her audience with an exaggerated effort, a bit like the way presenters work on children’s TV like ‘Play School’, leaving space for silent laughter.  We saw this recently on tv programmes like the Late Show with Steven Colbert, who was forced to perform from his apartment instead of the studio during Lockdown.  Without people, it fails somewhat.  Comedy like this really needs warm bodies to shine. 

Still the music helps, and once you get over the initial format cringe you can really settle I and enjoy.

Morel’s mission is to bring these well known fables into the 21st century – and we are reminded of the sad realities with must that we must all now live with.  She very cleverly dispels the myths of these fairytales with her often debauched modern twists.  It should be pointed out that these are not for children.  There are some R16 moments. 

She plays all the characters with more than feminist touch.

“In my stories, girls are trying to escape Aristocratic beast, not chase after them!’  Madame d’Aulony tells her own story of how she escaped an arranged marriage by getting her intended sent to the Bastille for treachery and tax evasion.  She has skin in this game.

It’s funny how some of the real-life fairy tales like the Weddings of Charles and Diana or Andrew and Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew have now been dissolved over time, as we learn the truth behind them.  It seems the facade hides what really happened when Cinderella married her Prince Charming.  On that, Cinder’s story is told from the perspective of Olga, a disgruntled stepsister, who bears more than a passing resemblance Samantha Markle and her madcap ramblings about Megan on cable TV. Olga and her sister, it seems are pipped by the activities of their stepsister, who after the wedding, instead of welcoming them to the palace has employed them as the Royal’s laundry mistresses.  We see a disgruntled Olga explaining this in song (sung to the tune of ‘Those Were Days, My Friend’), whilst sitting in a trashy backstreet laundromat, commenting about the golden couple’s recent abdication to escape the paparazzi and wondering if Prince Andrew is still available to date.    

Jack and the Beanstalk also gets a bit of a twist, with puns intended.  As the liberated goose that lays the golden eggs, Morel assumes the personality of the ‘egg-cited’ bird and sings (in egg-ceptional voice) about how Jack climbed the beanstalk to rescue her and her loudmouthed mate, the Magical Harp.  In the process she fills us in on what really happed during Jack’s escape and how the giant really dies.  As this ‘eggs-pose’ unfolds we learn how the recently liberated goose ditches Jack once the big guy s out of the way to set up her own golden egg laying business.  She figures she’s sitting on a goldmine, why not exploit it! 

What could be next.  Of course, it’s Mr Wolf (oddly from Transylvania – no explanation why) and that pesky girl – Red Riding Hood.  This time, she’s re-appropriated the song ‘Perhaps, Perhaps’ to argue why this wild canine is misunderstood. Wolf wasn’t eating Granny at all.  Well, not literally.  More carnally, if you get my drift.  There’s a scandalous cover-up that hides the truth behind the Wolf’s murder.  It turns out the wood-cutter is innocent after all! 

It’s all deliciously playful and subversive.  But watching this with the backdrop of the Ukrainian invasion feels particularly uncomfortable right now.  The Russian/Middle European accents hammer home the point - Is the Wolf Putin or Trump?  Or Us? Did we let him in win, despite his charm and big ears? 

Then there’s the ‘date rape’ #metoo version of the “Sleeping Beauty” fable seen through the eyes of a comatose princess molested by her future prince.  Prince Charming turns out to be a creep who takes advantage of girls sedated under the influence of charms and spells.  Is this Prince Andrew, Harvey Weinstein, or any male in a position of power turning a vulnerable situation to their advantage? 

The art, backgrounds and animations bring this performance to life, and there’s a real hint at the theatre that Morel was aiming at when she performed the show live.  They’d done their best with the high-quality production, and that softens the blow.  She uses all the familiar tropes of pantomime and story telling to deliver.  While the online version doesn’t really show Morel at the height of her powers Disenchanted is still a brilliant show and a nice distraction from reality for an hour – and a talking point for the next virtual water conversation.

CoffeeBar Kid



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