Pros: A fascinating exploration of what might happen when we close the book and say ‘The End’.
Cons: While the space served as an intimate setting for the tone of the piece, the stage itself was far too cramped.
I can’t say that I’ve never been curious. What are all those Disney princesses really like after we’ve stopped the film or turned the page to read a different story? And what is their life like after they’ve married Prince Charming, all the short grumpy men have gone back to the woods, the animals have stopped singing and the stepsisters are doing their own chores?
Well, according to writer/director Michelle Charleston, Ella (Cinderella) is a hopeless romantic living in a barren marriage; Rose (Sleeping Beauty) is a cynical divorcé back in the dating game; Ariel (The Little Mermaid) is a pop star who wishes she could laugh in the face of media scrutiny and the pressure for women to be perfect. Snow (White) likes marriage to her husband and loves sex (with anyone but); Belle (Beauty and the Beast) is the victim of domestic abuse; and Tia (The Princess and The Frog) is in a strong relationship with her husband, gives and takes strength from her friends and runs a successful restaurant.
Taking exciting and familiar characters into a modern world and contemplating their personalities and lives beyond what we know is always quite fun and can be wildly entertaining as it confirms or challenges our own visions of these beloved characters in the real world. In this take on the real princesses of fairy tales of yore, Charleston and her talented cast breathe life into the two dimensional princesses that have been ripped from page to Disney castle, and gives them each the voices and choices that we should see and hear more of in retellings of myths and stories.
Each character tackles the real life issues facing women today in a monologue or occasionally a dialogue or group scene – a welcome reprieve from the sugar coated version of life that I got from fairytales when I was a kid. However, there was not enough time to delve into each situation fully, rendering the scenes slightly unfinished. Considering the seriousness and complexity of some of the issues, it was a shame they weren’t addressed completely.
The musical components, borrowed from the Disney formula, were too powerful for the small space, and seemed to act as an easy way of resolving the story in a short period of time. Unfortunately, this felt like a quick fix that was both unsettling and mildly cheesy. While each scene carried powerful and important messages of sisterhood, strength in the self and ‘why should women have to live up to a double standard’, much of it does come off as naïve and preachy in the way that can turn off your audience.
The costumes and visual cues were brilliant and the first song that brings all the princesses together in a tongue and cheek Shrek-like manner does give the impression that you’re about to encounter an insightful and interesting piece, if a little unpolished.
Ever After is an Awfully Long Time was part of the Camden Fringe and has now finished its run.
Written and Directed by: Michelle Charleston.
Music and Lyrics by: Ellie Rose Rusbridge, Michelle Charleston and Abigail Clark