Synopsis: Once upon a time…. Hidden in the crevices, drawn from the gutters and alleyways of life, comes a startling retelling of classic fairy tales.
Celebrated Australian Playwright Vanessa Bates has written an engaging and exploratory piece of theatre in The Magic Hour. Ursula Yovich begins taking her audience on a journey by breaking the fourth wall as they settled in their seats. In a breath all eyes on Yovich whilst taking in the enchanting set design by Alicia Clements. Joe Lui also must be commended for his soft warm lighting design and whimsical and at times haunting original score, all visual and audible elements cacooned Yovich perfectly through out her performance. Yovich Engaged in chit-chat before she immerses herself into old-fashioned story telling by the camp fire so to speak. In this case a single back yard cooker/bbq.
Bates stories are filled with well-known classic fairy tale characters though not in the familiar skins and circumstances we know so well. Yovich and director Chris Bendall have been given an enormous task in this one woman show to pull together the interestingly woven reality vs fantasy characters. Bendall managed this in a smooth and precise manner using the set to his advantage on every occasion as well as a clever use of puppetry in one tale that was quirky and play school like, highly enjoyable direction.
The Magic Hour indeed is an eventful experience. Vanessa Bates, Chris Bendall and Ursula Yovich have woven their talents together to create a tapestry of visual wonder. The stories are written with humour and cold hard realism. You won’t find airy fairy Disney tales here. Bates adapted fairy tales such as Cinderella, Rapunzel, The Princess and the Frog, Jack and the Beanstalk among others. She has adapted these characters into tangible worlds with an Australian perspective and hardship. Plucking fantasy from the classic stories we have grown up with all our lives and replacing that fantasy with some dark truth.
My question at the end of it all was whether or not we needed to have this adaptation occur to these tales? If you break down most of, if not all Disney classic fairy tales they are already full of tragedy and let’s be honest not very child like concepts at all. Stories full of kidnaping, jealous rages, murder attempts, evil beings, spells, death… Of course the endings are always highly unrealistic and full of sensationalism. Prince on white horse to rescue…lol. Even Disney themselves have attempted to pluck apart their own fantasies to match with a more relevant out come for their characters aka recently Maleficent starring Angelina Jolie. The whole premise of fantasy is in its genre title, it isn’t supposed to be realistic. Its purpose being to take us out of the hardships life throws our way and take us to a place briefly where we can believe or feel hopeful for that happy ending? Sure it’s unrealistic and we certainly shouldn’t be basing our real life expectations on fantasy, but I couldn’t help question this in my thought process at the plays conclusion. In saying that though the concept is undeniably interesting and meaty with endless possibilities in adaptation. God knows Shakespeare has been adapted to death in every which way possible. Perhaps in hind sight fairy tales are of no exception. Perhaps my child within felt slightly jarred by the experience. My question indeed is a personal one to which an individual must make up his or her mind upon seeing the production for themselves. Food for thought.
On the flip side to that note I ultimately appreciated that Bates had written a series of stories about the ‘magic hours’ of living in the reality. The magic of the human spirit and the magic we can produce by being ultimately human, appreciating this and not grasping for fake ideals that indeed our classic fairy tales ooze.
Bates blending of the worlds is interesting and Yovichs performance was beautiful and emotionally gripping, giving her blood, sweat and tears into every tale she conveyed with tremendous conviction.
The Magic Hour is touring nation wide and is currently on at Riverside Theatre Parramatta 26-28th of June.