top of page
  • Writer's pictureHinton Magazine

Fairytales, Fables & Other Assorted Nonsense

This Christmas Assembleth Theatre presents Fairytales, Fables & Other Assorted Nonsense a swashbuckling adventure where reluctant hero Susan navigates a whimsical world threatened by Little Red Riding Hood and her henchmen. Joined by iconic fairytale characters, Susan faces tax-collecting wolves, radical pigs, and a less-than-charming Prince Charming. With their signature silly style, Assembleth Theatre blends physical theatre, farce and fast-paced humour in this riotous and rebellious family-friendly show.

We spoke to Plum Grosvenor-Stevenson and Cal Moffat, the creators of the show to find out more…

Fairytales, Fables & Other Assorted Nonsense is a comedy fairytale crossover. Can you tell us what inspired the show?

Our inspiration came when we were leading some sessions with young people in Plymouth with a game called ‘fairy tale courtroom’ where we would put fairy tale characters on trial for crimes (for example, having Goldilocks accused of breaking and entering and porridge theft). The young people would then plan out a defence and prosecution in two teams, with witnesses and lawyers (our personal favourite witness being a forensic porridge analyst in the case of Goldilocks). We had so much fun with what we were exploring with the young people and wanted to explore if this idea had room to grow into a full show. We approached the Barbican Theatre Plymouth to see if we could run some sessions with their 15–18- year-olds, to see if we could R&D a show based around this concept for this age range, and they supported us by giving us a class for 6 months to plan out how we could develop the new show. It has moved away from the original premise during those 6 months and the following R&D processes, but we now have an incredibly fun and silly show with a host of fairy tale characters and still one memorable courtroom scene!

You workshopped the show with young local people. When creating theatre with young people, what unique challenges and opportunities do you encounter, and how does this influence your approach as a director?

The young people we workshopped the concept with were 15 – 18 years old, this is such a great age range to work with on something like this as ideas were thrown at us from all angles, with the three of us constantly taking notes on what could be developed and incorporated into the show. One of the great joys of this part of the process was that we weren’t creating a finished piece of theatre with the young people, that was our job to go away and do afterwards, but rather we were generating ideas of all sorts of weird and wonderful story lines, some of which we’ve used, some we haven’t. We could probably create three or four productions from the number of ideas generated over those six months!

When the rehearsal process started, we always had in our minds the sessions with the young people and were always trying to find the best way to transpose that sense of joy that the young people had during the initial R&D onto the stage with our actors.

When workshopping the show, did you find the young people were drawn to a particular fairytale or theme?

We wanted to explore lots of different fairy tale characters and storylines with the young people and there wasn’t really one specific fairy tale was focussed on. Thematically we played around with lots of different ideas but the one that stuck the most, and is now the basis of the show, is rebellion. It’s something that the young people felt lent itself well to the fairy tales and was something we had a lot of fun with.

Fairytales often have timeless themes. How do you adapt these classic stories to resonate with contemporary audiences while maintaining the essence of the original tales?

These are characters and stories that have been written and rewritten over centuries by multitudes of different authors for page, stage, and screen. We felt that maintaining the essence of the original fairy tales, wonderful as they are in most cases, wasn’t something we felt we needed to overly worry about and certainly wasn’t something the young people we researched and developed the concept with were concerned over. Rather, our main aim was to use these characters in a new way, with reference to everything that has come before, be it Anderson & the Grimms, Sondheim, Willingham, or Walt Disney. We wanted to play on the fact that the stories are so well known and so well loved that we can really use them in any way we want and still maintain the essence of the characters and build a show that is both rooted in people’s understanding of the characters and stories whilst at the same time completely new.

Fairytales often carry moral or ethical lessons. How do you incorporate these themes into your productions, and what do you hope the audience takes away from the experience?

This production doesn’t really deal with the moral lessons of some of the original tales. We wanted audiences to be able to have some fun with characters they’ve know and see them and some of the tales in a new and very silly way. The stories we tell aren’t focussed on morality but rather on escapism. We wanted audiences to be able to have a break from anything that’s going on in their lives and come and have a laugh with us and this wonderful, silly world that we’ve created but at the same time on that is familiar and with characters you already know and love.

How did you ensure that the humour in the show would appeal to all age ranges?

We take inspiration from lots of different styles of comedy and try to work different aspects into all our shows, with Fairytales, Fables & Other Assorted Nonsense being no different. The audience will be kept on their toes with changes of pace, ridiculous fights, untimely deaths and 26 different parts played by just three actors. We are confident that there’s something for everyone to enjoy in this show!

Is there a particular part of the show you would say is your favourite?

Cal’s favourite section of the show is the court room scene, where a blundering Prince Charming (think medieval Bertie Wooster), takes on the role of the prosecution for a murder that didn’t happen, with three witness who are of no use whatsoever including the murder victim and The Frog Prince, who can’t talk but luckily is telepathic to other Princes. Plum’s favourite part of the show is definitely the Snow White fairy tale. In our version, Susan, our lead protagonist, takes the role of Snow White and is given the poisoned apple by an intern wolf sent by Red Riding Hood who is not all that good at his job and is in love with Susan. The whole thing falls apart very quickly but to find out what happens you’ll have to come and watch the show!

Fairytales, Fables & Other Assorted Nonsense is at Barbican Theatre Plymouth 12 – 23 December, tickets and more information can be found here:

bottom of page