The mater matters
20 August 2012 | BRUCE DENNILL
SHOW: Rose Red - The gimmick involved in this one-woman show with music (the excellent Dawid Bowerhoff provides both instrumental music and expert backing for the popular songs Dianne Simpson sings as part of telling her character’s story) is a very clever, very simple one.
CAST: Dianne Simpson, Dawid Bowerhoff
DIRECTOR: Pieter Bosch Botha
VENUE: Old Mutual Theatre On The Square, Sandton, until September 1
To wit: when the story of Snow White is told in the traditional way, the princess’s stepmother comes across as the villain, an evil, narcissistic witch.
There is not appreciation of the context in which she found herself or the effect that may have had on her psyche – and that’s the story told in Rose Red.
What with there being music involved in the narrative, but the production not being a musical, many punters might assume that the show is nothing more than a fairytale-tinged cabaret – enter-taining enough in its own way, but unlikely to be memorable.
Simpson’s script sidesteps this potential shortfall brilliantly, being a layered, thought-provoking, witty and ultimately (and unexpectedly) moving examination of a well- known and much-maligned literary character.
Simpson’s top-notch acting allows her to effortlessly carry the piece. Bowerhoff and his piano are at the back of the stage and the set is simple – a couple of tables and chairs and the queen’s famous opinion-giving mirror.
Her expressive face and the ease with which she changes the pitch of her speaking voice when portraying different characters fill out much of the humour in the script.
The lines are funny in themselves, but accompanied by a raised eyebrow or pursed lips or whatever the case may be, their effect is incrementally increased.
The choice of the songs that soundtrack the story is superb, with songs from Coldplay, Tori Amos, Lady Gaga and others reworked and contextualised in such a way that they take on different new meanings to what listeners might have managed when hearing the tunes on radio playlists.
Simpson’s singing voice is not her strongest performance facet, but a slight weakness there is more than made up for by the intensity with which her character lives the lyrics as they are being sung.
Fairytale villains often seem like open-and-shut cases: they do nasty things because they’re evil, and that’s that.
Simpson, in her writing and her portrayal of Snow White’s stepmother, brings into play subject matter such as the insecurity of a widow, especially when the deceased husband was a much-loved king; the difficulties of relating to and raising a child for whom you are responsible but who is not your own; and much more.
It’s cleverly constructed stuff that never settles for the obvious, playing for laughs outlet (although there are many very funny moments).
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