by Natasha Holmes and Eleanor Hooper.
Lawrence Batley Theatre Queen’s Square Queen Street HD1 2SP To 27 December 2015.
Sun 2.15pm, 7pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 01484 430528.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 December.
Mirror, mirror; off the wall.
Years ago I had a film-strip – an old-technology version of a power-point slideshow – showing the Christmas story as depicted by European Great Masters. Near the end came a Japanese print; by Hokusai, maybe, it looked distinctly ethnic.
But all these pictures were ethnic interpretations, introducing assumptions from the society and artistic traditions of wherever in Europe the artists lived. I failed to register this because I lived within the same cultural assumptions.
Yorkshire drama has brought plots home from early days. Fourteen miles from Huddersfield, in the early 15th-century, revisions to the Wakefield cycle of biblically-based Mystery Plays created a play about the three Shepherds following an angel and taking presents to the newly-born Jesus.
But that’s just the final third. Most of the play shows them as Yorkshire shepherds, complaining about the weather and their hard life. Jesus’s birth comes right after the local sheep-stealer’s tried passing-off the lamb he’s nicked from them as his wife’s newborn child. Needless to say, the thief adopts a southern accent.
So it should be no surprise Tell Tale Hearts, developing work for children (in this case, 5+) by working with children, bearing in mind the way young imaginations work and young minds develop, comes bearing this radical, logical Snow White.
The story’s mediated through the ideas it sparks in young minds with the coalface in their consciousness and family memories, if not daily life any more.
Foremost among writers for the young in linking form and style to material, and experienced in re-forming traditional tales, playwright Mike Kenny is just the person to have guided the plot along its new tracks, with the all-important mirror become a hall of mirrors and with a panther accompanying Snow White.
The other collaborators are street-theatre engineers Pif-Paf, bringing indoors their huge constructions, creating a giant mobile suggesting a pit-head that swings to create underground passageways.
Strange-seeming, theatrically surprising, dramatically invigorating, musically enjoyable as The Coalface Crocodiles, a half-miner, half-troll brass band swing in the air or patrol the stage with New Orleans-style numbers, this is true Yorkshire and they can be rightly proud of it.
Snow White: Francesca Dunford.
Mystique/Dizzy: Eleanor Hooper.
Smasher: Conrad Bird.
Lamp Light: James McLean.
Blaster/Mr Couteau: Peter Gunson.
Canary: Sophie Postlethwaite.
Director: Natasha Holmes.
Designers: Peter Gunson, Eleanor Hooper,
Lighting: Lars Jensen.
Sound: Pete Storer.
Composer/Musical Director: Jack Stoddard.
Costume: Jessica Bull.
Puppets: Eleanor Hooper.
Dramaturg: Mike Kenny.
Assistant costume: Amy Turner.