BATS Theatre, Wellington

28/02/2006 - 04/03/2006

NZ Fringe Festival 2006

Production Details

Pincess Alicia is no kindy-teaching virgin! When deprived of her liberty and her cellphone one night in the forest she fights to find a new twist to her tale.

The Biting Myth Trilogy began in Fringe 05 with Eating The Wolf – now Superbeast – an outraged and outrageous black comedy of farce, fairytale and frogs!

Written and directed by Sarah Dlahunty

Corrine Woollett as Princess Alicia

Tim Williams as Prince Willy

Estelle Clifford as Agatha / the Queen

Glen Bailey as the King

Eleanor Bishop as Mother

Alex Ness and Brian Gibb as male revolutionaries

Sarah Silver as Dolly

Heleyni Pratley as the Pea Princess

Jean Sergent as Witch

Theatre ,

1 hour

Pessimistic panto for adults

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 30th Mar 2006

SuperBeast is a panto for adults. It has a bleak, pessimistic ending and the Princess Alicia, its heroine (if that’s the right word for her), has seen far too many contemporary films and plays, for she uses four-letter words all the time.

In true panto style nearly all the characters break into song at some point, which goes to show that the St James is not the only theatre with acoustical problems. At Bats the actors shout and the sound track is played so loudly that the lyrics are rendered largely unintelligible. This is a pity for the snatches of lyrics I did hear seemed to be clever and amusing.

It does have a traditional panto horse and a dotty racist king, a randy Prince Willy, a witch, an ordinary male frog as well as a radical female frog who admires Robin Hood, and a princess who can feel a pea under the mattress. It also has two brothers who are hostage takers who carry sub-machine guns. They capture Princess Alicia in the forest but they get a bit more than they bargained for because she subjects them not only to her foul tongue but also to story telling.

The stories she tells are all variations of well-known fairy tales with, of course, a very contemporary twist to them, but all are basically built around the idea that a few in the world have everything and the majority have nothing. One of the brothers also tells his own story and so does a mother who foolishly put her trust in God.

Somerset Maugham once wrote that in a story as in a play, you must make up your mind what your point is and stick to it like grim death. Sarah Delahunty sticks to the point grimly but by having too many stories, one of which is a very long serious monologue that kills the panto atmosphere stone dead, the broth is in the end spoilt, despite a strong and a capable cast of young actors.


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Delahunty does it again

Review by John Smythe 28th Mar 2006

Last year I described Sarah Delahunty’s first deconstruction and reconstruction of folk tales, Eating the Wolf, as "find of the Fringe so far" and "a must-see for anyone who has wrestled with gender-politics, be they axe or mop wielders, corporate or home executives." It inverted the myth of damsel in distress saved by handsome hunk by having Grandma eat the wolf and focus on becoming prime minister and dominating the world. Red Riding Hood’s quest to have it all was ingeniously set up as a test that would see her granted one wish if she solved the dilemma faced by all working mothers (do I see my child in daylight or darkness?), and the happy-ever-after outcome seemed designed to provoke after-show discussion.

Asked by me to articulate the moral of Eating the Wolf, Sarah put it this way: "Happiness is only truly found in giving others what they truly need." She is talking about primal needs here, and the fish hook is in the word "truly".

Superbeast continues to challenge the desire to dominate from two very different angles. With foul-mouthed foot-stamping anger, born-to-rule Princess Alicia (Corrine Woollett at her wacky best) plays the "I am extremely sensitive" card to demand everything she wants, mostly from her long-suffering servant Agatha (Estelle Clifford, capturing the essence as always). Conversely the male revolutionaries who take her hostage (Alex Ness and Brian Gibb as classic panto comedy klutzes) take the power of the guns that grow from their hands for granted. Despite being lost in a waiting-for-orders limbo that echoes Waiting for Godot (Beckett) or The Dumb Waiter (Pinter), their righteous anger sits deep in their guts, where they still feel the degradation of starvation.

Later, in a quietly powerful monologue, their Mother (Eleanor Bishop), speaking as mother of all the dispossessed, tells of how her faith in God was tested when strangers claimed their land, cleared it, made them work to buy the food they used to grow but could no longer afford, then left it barren of all but iron bars and fences. It’s the taste of dirt that lingers in her son’s mouths, denying them any knowledge of sweetness or love.

Meanwhile Princess Alicia has strategised to stay alive by telling her captors stories. Very recent history echoes in the tale of phallocentric Prince Willy (Tim Williams: nicely nailed) and the means by which his mother, the Queen (Estelle Clifford) selects him a suitable wife – from a Kindergarten teacher called Dolly (a very ‘blonde’ Sarah Silver) or the classic Pea Princess Heleyni Pratley (delightfully intense) – while the King (Glen Bailey: jolly well done) reveals himself to be a mindlessly racist old fart. The Frog Princess story is hijacked by the gun-toting bros to become a sort of Froggin Hood …

A Witch (Jean Sergent: compelling attention) steps in from Eating the Wolf to posit the value of community as opposed to "What’s in it for me?" She stays on to stir the story cauldron, which is where the Mother’s tale comes in. Finally, in a twist on Beauty and the Beast, the witch casts the bros as a Trader and his son Beau, and Princess Alicia as the princess-made-ugly (a splendid half-mask used here), to explore the timeless question of where love really lives, beyond surface beauty.

Once more a love-conquers-all happy ending is in the offing. But for one of the brothers, the taste of dirt is still too strong, his weapon is handy to instantly express his fear of what he cannot comprehend … Carnage. Yet again. By comparison, the pantomime horse (Williams & Silver) that bookends the story ends up looking like a Houyhnhnm (Jonathan Swift: Gulliver’s Travels). Once more, a provocative ending.

Songs are dotted throughout with pungent lyrics that deserve to be heard more clearly. They could be better staged, too. Perhaps in future production, resources will be found to give them a boost.

is billed as the second of the ‘Biting Myth Trilogy’. The third, The Beanstalkers, is in the process of creation and the plan is to present all three in sequence in the near future. Watch out for them: they’re not to be missed.


John Smythe February 19th, 2008

Just for the record, here is my National Business Review crit of Sarah Delahunty's EATING THE WOLF, published 4 March 2005. _______________

Find of the Fringe so far is Eating the Wolf, written, directed and narrated by Sarah Delahunty, at the Red Brick Hall. Little Red Riding Hood embarks on a whole new journey once Grandma eats the wolf and decides to become prime minister and dominate the environment. The tale also offers alternative fates for folk tale damsels Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Rose Red.

Forty-odd years of feminist politics are neatly deconstructed. So, too, is the story of stories. The pendulum swings away from the woodcutter, whose axe is a metaphor for masculine power, then back from the man-hating extremities of feminism. Each radical change starts with someone questioning the status quo.

RRH’s ultimate quest to have it all is ingeniously set up as a test that will see her granted one wish if she solves the central dilemma. I presume her answer and the “happy ever after” outcome are calculated to provoke post-show debate.

By committing fully to the viewpoints of each character they play, Erin Shepherd, Eleanor Bishop, Chelsie Preston-Crayford, Heleyni Pratley and Jean Sergent elevate Delahunty’s deceptively simple script way above send-up.

Eating the Wolf is a must-see for anyone who has wrestled with gender-politics, be they axe or mop wielders, corporate or home executives. Given Downstage and Circa’s recent revivals of Caryl Churchill plays, I imagine they will now compete for the rights to give Eating the Wolf a full professional season. Indeed, like Churchill’s plays, it should play around the world.

Thomas La Hood March 3rd, 2006

I too was very impressed with this show. It was satisfying to see something with clear moral stakes - so many shows these days are all layers and no meaning. I felt indignant towards other audiences who laughed at what I felt were very important moments; This feeling of righteousness for me is the result of very powerful theatre.

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