“Where did it all go wrong for Cinderella?” Workshops at Camden MIND

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Re:Sound Artistic Co-Director Rebecca Lea blogs about our recent workshops in Camden….

Yesterday the Re:Sound team descended on Camden’s MIND centre for the first of our Thousand Furs music and theatre outreach workshops. Working with 10 participants at the centre, we enjoyed a fantastic session of group singing and drama, exploring the music and narrative of the opera.

Workshops are a particularly interesting and rewarding strand of our company’s work. It is always refreshing to explore a piece with a new group of people and to gain new insights into the material. Thousand Furs is based on an older, darker variant of the Cinderella narrative, in which the heroine princess Maria, after mistakenly trying on her dead mother’s wedding ring, is forced to flee an incestuous marriage to her own father and seek her fortune. Our group was vociferous in expressing their outrage at the story’s exposition and much discussion was had as to whether it was, ‘in this age of Yewtree’, even acceptable to ‘tamper’ with this well-loved story in such a way. There was genuine concern as to how audiences might react to such a portrayal.

And yet…. The heroine of this original version is not to be found sweeping stairs, singing to birds and waiting for the arrival of a magical fairy godmother. Instead, and without giving anything away, she is forced to take fate into her own hands, escape an abhorrent situation and use her own wit and cunning (as well as her beauty) to climb the social ladder and achieve the life (and lifestyle) she desires. Despite the murkier beginnings to this ancient tale, the protagonist in this version embodies much more closely our modern vision of heroism (or heroinism…?!) than that portrayed by Disney and it does make one question where down the line, between Thousand Furs and ‘Bibbity Bobbity Boo’, did it all go wrong?

As part of the afternoon, we split into groups and were given the task of writing lyrics, which we set to one of the choruses in the opera and then performed together. The lyrics were to be written in response to the question: what advice would you give Maria, faced with this awkward situation. My group’s ….. ‘seduce the king, steal the ring, replace it with some other bling’, perhaps suggests that they too had come round to the idea of an active heroine, willing to go to extreme measures to secure her own destiny. And this is perhaps why Thousand Furs works well as an actor-musician production. For here there is no magic, no ethereal music wafting up from the pit, rather everything is created directly in front of the eyes of the audience. We see clearly how characters create their own stories and manipulate their own futures, for better, for worse.

We have invited the workshop group to our performance at Tete-a-Tete on the 6th August and look forward to hearing their feedback on the whole performance. Does it end happily? You’ll just have to come and see for yourself….