Review by Kate Gaul
Wrong Three Theatre presents “Das Weben” is a 50-minute retelling of the fairy story “Rumpelstiltskin” jammed in around other Grimms tales. I looked up “weben” – it means weaving so I am thinking about the weaving together of many fairy tale threads.
The challenge with attending any open access fringe is that occasionally I turn up to an event and wrack my brain for what it was about a title, description, or an image that made me think it was a good idea. “Das Weben” is one of those events. Was it the German title? Surely, I am not that shallow?! I am curious to explore contemporary takes on the brothers Grimm and the blurb for this production offered some information about endorsement of the Grimm’s tales by the Nazi regime. OK, could be explosive!
What is on offer is a group of drama students giving it go! Some fairly crude choreography to a loud backing track commences proceedings and a ring-mistress character sets the scene. Interpretive dance is repeated for some of the character interactions. Several interminable scenes are played out with varying degrees of skill.
Production values are basic. Cast appear to be wearing their own gear as costumes with occasional additions of dress-up box jackets and there is a smattering of stage makeup. The set consists of three wooden cages where characters who don’t conform will be trapped. Low hanging fabric “chains” block possible entrances and exits and so the cast is confined to the same entrance and exit – which is clumsy. Chairs are set as required. It’s all given a circus-esque feel if you squint with the red, white, and green lighting.
Standouts amongst the cast are Hanna Wright as Rumpelstiltskin who spins straw into gold and gives it away in exchange for a first-born child. Their presence and focus help scenes crackle and relationships develop. Nice work on the gender swap (Rumpelstiltskin is usually played by a male actor). Physically adept Wright creates a 3-dimensional and compelling character. Our ring mistress, Hannah Lyndon, is channelling a full-on musical theatre performance which leaves their team for dead on the charisma stakes. Lyndon holds the stories together and introduces characters and plot threads. Love stories are introduced but there never seems much at stake.
A directors note found online states, “our female characters are able to plead their case in a way the stories themselves never allow them too”. Despite that statement, what is perhaps most alarming in the production is that these contemporary young actors have seemingly bought into some questionable tropes that exist is traditional fairy stories even though their blurb promises some feminist perspectives. For example, every princess is looking for her prince charming; women really are put on earth to marry and have children and if they don’t, they risk angering up-tight and evil mothers.
The Brothers Grimm repurposed stories written by a coterie of 17th century French female writers known as the “conteuses”, or storytellers. The history of the French “conteuses” is a forgotten story that needs to be retold. One in which women authors invited their adult readers to imagine greater freedom in their lives, to be their own authors of the most fundamental of all human endeavours – to be able to choose whom to love. But that, dear readers, is another story.