The Story Museum have embraced C. S. Lewis’s maxim that “One day [we] will be old enough for fairy tales again” through this series of tales aimed squarely at an adult audience. Over the course of 75 minutes, storyteller Nell Phoenix recounted every iteration of Red Riding Hood’s tale that she had found, resulting in an evening of globe-trotting macabre entertainment. With frequent references to gore and cannibalism, as well as euphemistic seductions, this certainly wasn’t a show for kids.
From archaeological digs to Chinese cabbages, Phoenix demonstrated an incredible mastery of her subject (surely someone has written a PhD on this?), each version retold with verve and a keen sense of humour. Charles Perrault’s Red Cap carried a baguette and spoke in a French accent whilst each wolf was, inexplicably, a bit Cockney. The cross-dressing element of the story was milked for its comedic value, as was the latest victim’s exasperation (“FFS!”) at – yet again – falling prey to a lupine predator.
Phoenix was unafraid to highlight the female characters’ unquestioning naivety and by emphasising the repetitious nature of females subjected to violence, there was an implicit commentary on the modern perils of womanhood. The focus, however, was more comedic than academic, despite the obvious shadow of Angela Carter looming large. By assembling a veritable rogues’ gallery of wolves, their status as villains and agents of metamorphosis was all the more obvious.
Since Phoenix chose to hone in on (essentially) the same story, some element of repetition was to be expected. Perhaps more surprising, however, is how this obsolescence was utilised to playful effect, as Phoenix begged disbelief that yet another red-capped young girl had fallen for the same trick.
This event was available as a livestream in addition to the live performance. Crick Crack Club returns next month.