This sharply witty show highlights the problems of ‘the princess complex’ – making you see the Princesses and their stories in a very different and contemporary light.
Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Hua Mulan and Pocahontas are just some of the Princesses who have a lot to say about their so called ‘happily ever after’ – confronting the way that they have been portrayed through this hilarious show that also raises serious points about the ‘princess complex’.
Written by Dennis T. Giacino and directed with a cabaret style flair by Tom Jackson Greaves, Disenchanted aims to be an empowering show that leaves the audience questioning exactly these female characters have had to rely on men for their happy endings – and wondering what would have happened if they had been able to make their own decisions on what a happy ending really is. For the most part it does succeed in this – but I do feel as though the bitterness that emerges in many of the songs can be a little bit over done.
However, where the show works at its best is when it questions the disneyfied way in which stories have been transformed to be more romantic than it seems. For example, ‘Honestly’ performed by Pocahontas (Grace Mouat) perfectly highlights this as she points out the number of inaccuracies in the way in which Disney bought the history to life – while a screen after the performance urges us to try and discover her real story. Elsewhere, ”Without the Guy’ performed by Hua Mulan (Natalie Chua) questions why she needs a man when she has accomplished so much without one. Both make valid points and make you sit up and pay attention.
When Disenchanted raises issues such as setting bad examples in terms of potentially affecting how young women see themselves and their bodies captured in the songs ‘Big Tits’ and ‘All I Wanna Do is Eat’ for example, it feels that underneath the humour it is asking us not to take fairytales too seriously and have no bearing on how your life can turn out. Yet it could have gone a bit further and made some suggestions as to how their situations can be changed.
These fairytales could have been written very differently for contemporary ideals (anyone interested in re-writing them), and deserve to be re-examined today. The show brims with frustration and anger that does make listening to the characters letting us know what they are for and against extremely interesting, but the bitterness that emerges can be slightly overwhelming in places and in fact, I found that Sleeping Beauty’s number ‘Perfect’ to be the most profound and reassuring – a reminder that its ok not to be perfect and accept yourself as you are and not to take the ideals set in fairytales too seriously.
The performances of all the cast are wonderfully distinctive and powerful. Leading the way, Jodie Steele as Snow White is delightfully sharp as she tries to keep the show moving along as it should (although Sleeping Beauty scuppers that on more than one occasion), Natalie Chua is really empowering as Hua Mulan and Grace Mouat as Pocahontas delivers a really powerful performance that makes the viewer sit up and pay attention.
Overall, the performances were excellent, the sharpness of the songs is great – but it feels as though it needs to move slightly away from the bitter tone to add more depth and exploration of solutions for these unhappy princesses.
By Emma Clarendon
Disenchanted is available to watch at 7.30pm this evening. To book your tickets visit: https://www.stream.theatre/season/96