Review: Snow White and Rose Red (Battersea Arts Centre)

RashDash present their take on the original fairy tale by The Brothers Grimm for all the family aged 5

"Does there have to be a prince though?" Snow White and Rose Red, sisters in every sense of the word, prove unequivocally there does not in RashDash‘s latest revisionist fairytale. In Abbi Greenland and Helen Goalen’s hands, theirs is a story that rewrites the rulebook, sprinkling feminist theory around like fairy dust. These are two damsels that do their own damn distressing, and if either does happen to need rescuing, well, the other’s got that covered thank-you-very-much.

Co-habiting in Bluebell Cottage, these two are "less Disney, more Grimm," and when they find a book down the back of the shelves, a book containing stories that have never been told, it’s a great opportunity to tell their own tale. It’s one that sees them set off on an adventure, over vast snowy plains and up sky-high mountains, rather than waiting for some prince or other to find them.

RashDash has a track record with revisionist tales, and Snow White and Rose Red sits in the same vein as its tubthumping celebration of Cinderella’s Ugly Sisters. Having reclaimed that pair as independent women (complete with Frieda Kahlo-style brows), that dressed for themselves and focussed on glass ceilings rather than glass slippers, Greenland and Goalen now set about proving that not all heroines are pretty little princesses. Snow White (the smart one) and Rose Red (the brave one) can buccaneer with the best of them.

There are other inversions along the way. It’s their friend Bear (a clubbable Tom Penn) that needs rescuing, though he’s more genteel than grizzly. Being partial to a cup of Earl Grey himself, he’s proof that big, scary and hairy beasts can be soft and refined too. RashDash’s baddie – a villain whose heart froze over with pain – is proof that people aren’t born evil, but become so.

But it’s the female spirit that sloshes through the gig form, and if Greenland’s story refuses to patronise its young audience, rousing folk-rock numbers by a three-piece house band do just the same. Bucking anything cutesy or childish, Becky Wilkie’s vocals alternate between Laura Marling and PJ Harvey, and it’s a delight to watch kids bopping along and bouncing in their chairs, geed up by tumbling drums and electric guitars.

Even so, Greenland’s narrative can meander as the women surpass one obstacle after another, and the show pulls in a panto spirit of arch theatre-gags and pop cultural asides that slow its gung-ho charge. Shaggy though it is, this is a show that turns its homespun aesthetic to its advantage; one that proves that the Sisters Grimm can do it for themselves too.

Snow White & Rose Red runs until 30 December.

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