ED2011 Columns ED2011 Theatre ED2011 Week1 Edition

Hannah Mulder: Darker and wilder – fairy tales as they should be

By | Published on Friday 12 August 2011

The Wrong Crowd

The Wrong Crowd are performing ‘The Girl With The Iron Claws’ at Underbelly this year, and it’s already drawn significant praise from our reviewer for its eerieness and the strong performances of its cast.
Director Hannah Mulder explains what inspired the show, and why fairy tales are still relevant in the 21st century.

“I first heard the story that inspired ‘The Girl With The Iron Claws’ in a yurt on Dartmoor, in midwinter. Twenty of us huddled around a wood-burner, to hear it told, in an oral tradition that surely stretches back as far as human beings have had language.

Stories, myths, folk tales and “fairy tales”, as they are so often dubbed, were designed as tools for living. It was only in the Victorian era that they were relegated to the pages of children’s books, de-sexed and sanitised.

“The Victorian version of our story involves the heroine winning her man by washing his shirt cleaner than any of the other women who might be his bride.

Whereas in our earlier, wilder version she has a pair of Iron Claws made for her so that she might climb a glass mountain, in order to rescue her beloved – surely an image of feminine power if ever there was one.

I believe that the stories a culture tells itself profoundly shape that culture and its people. Because many of these stories were written down by the Victorians, they have become frozen in that period.

Of course, we’re very grateful that they were recorded, otherwise we might have lost them altogether. But it’s time to reclaim their fluid, shape-shifting roots and unearth some of the darker, less saccharine versions and retell them for our age.

Of course children love fairy stories – they’re fantastic pieces of craft and mystery, honed over millennia to speak directly to something deep inside us.But shouldn’t we all reclaim these stories, young and old and use them in the way they were supposed to be used – as a route map for a more dignified and soulful life?”

The Wrong Crowd’s show ‘The Girl With The Iron Claws’ was performed at the Underbelly during Fringe 2011.

LINKS: www.wrongcrowdtheatre.co.uk