Snow White and Rose Red, written and performed by Anna Simic and Cristy Gilbert. Festival of Contemporary Arts at Canberra Museum And Gallery Theatrette, October 6-9, 1999, 7pm.
It's not usual for members of the audience to instruct this reviewer, but "generosity of spirit" was the order of the evening - not so difficult in view of the champagne flowing down the tower of wine glasses in the foyer to bring us back to adult sophistication after an hour of childhood fantasy.
We knew reality was in for a dose of emetic when we discovered that Snow White has black hair, white lips and "skin as red as blood", and I'm sure I detected Anna's brother Mikal's band P.Harness playing the grunge/spew part in the sound track. And we were not disappointed. I will always find it difficult to consume chicken with equanimity from now on. These innocent little flower girls turned smilingly cannibalistic after consorting with a black bear, a witchetty step mother, a vicious rabbit, a thieving dwarf and a prince in cloth of gold.
What did the Little Golden Book, Old May Gibb and maybe a touch of Roald Dahl do to the imaginations of these highly presentable young women who could persuade artsACT to give them a grant?
In fact with little money, Simic and Gilbert have experimented with multi-media and produced a new reflection on reality, in which the little girls in the video clips watch themselves perform their fantasies, and watch us, while we watch them simultaneously on screen and stage - and before long find ourselves watching ourselves.
Of course, strict technical standards were impossible to meet, but I found that the fuzzy home-video result blended in, perhaps accidentally but certainly fortuitously, with the fuzzy mime and deliberate slow action of the "real" characters. Somehow we saw the children re-presenting themselves through a filmy filter of adult experience. They became "wyrd sisters" and for a moment I thought I saw Jean Genet's The Maids when very young.
Experiment is what FOCA is for, and CMAG's Theatrette is the right intimate venue for this production - but small, so get there early.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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