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Review: Princess Problems at Crowded in the vaults, Melbourne

By Kerrie Batrouney

Princess Problems is a comedy sketch show written and performed by Tara Fox, Meerna Yousif and Maddison Verduci. It is described as “fractured fairy tales meets sketch comedy live on stage” and I would say that’s exactly what you get.

On a warm Melbourne evening it was worth arriving early to have a drink along the Yarra river before heading into the venue. The Crowded in the vaults venue is one of the heritage listed vaults built in 1890 by Melbourne Council and home of council store rooms, marine trades and other tenants, before being taken over as a series of bars and it is a very fringy venue. The vault makes a very cozy theatre where the stage is tiny and the front row can even touch the performers.

As we enter, we see three mounds of bright tulle, that magically turn into 3 princesses; Princess Red (Meerna), Princess Pink (Tara), Princess Yellow (Maddison). As they introduce themselves; Pink seems to want to have the “happy ever after ending”, to settle down, get married, have kids. Yellow is not a girly princess, she’s a scientist, she is the Selena Gomez loving princess that dreams of forging a name for herself in the science world like her heroes Marie Curie, a dual Nobel prizewinning Physicist and Chemist and Amelia Earhart, a pioneering female aviator. Red has dreamed of the day when she wasn’t the token ethnic representative or the pretty one, the day when diversity is the norm.

The 3 problems of princesses as these princesses saw it are; unrealistic beauty standards, reinforcing gender stereotypes and lack of diversity. These were represented humorously by Pink, Yellow and Red. There followed a number of sketches where they rewrite the story books with a modern slant (and a few costume malfunctions). Half the fun was that they were having fun and by the very nature of fringe, where things don’t always go right it didn’t matter and they could improvise. It was quite physical comedy where the audience was encompassed in the jokes.

The sketches address the history of Disney princesses and their iconic scenes spanning the years. They call Disney out for the blatant snow whiteness of Snow White, Cinderella to the recent more ethnically sensitive “colourful” princesses such as Pocahontas, Mulan, Jasmine. Disney would be challenged to produce such modern examples of princessdom and maybe they should be.

The heart of the show was putting a mirror up to the reality of what women are like in the modern world… this world where young girls still dream of being a Disney style princess. There is a strange contradiction here where some women put so much energy to look like a perfect image of beauty, where individuality is not prized while at the same time others strive for individuality and equality in every way. How does the princess culture contribute to this? I was a bit disappointed that the princess who loved science had also to be the one who was less “girly” as surely this is a stereotype which we need to shatter for us to change the way young girls see engineering careers (and I say this as an engineer myself).

The rousing finale – when you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires will come to youuuuu – a sentiment we can all get behind!

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.

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