These days people ask what’s the point of theatre, in ways they never did before radio, tv and cinema? It may not be its point exactly, but what defines theatre is: one, it’s live and two, its magic arises from complicity with an audience of real humans.
The third theatre in Culture Unconfined is by the Makey Uppers, not be confused with high falutin’ notions of post-truth or rather low brow-ly, fake noos. Two women and a recasting of thousands of fairy tale characters like you’ve never heard them.
It’s not live. So you do miss something. In this production, the connection with the audience is more than half the value of the experience. It’s not just playful, it’s also angry but light enough to put a humourous edge to stuff we tend not to talk about.
Look out for the interrogation of the old woman who stuffed Hansel and Grettel into an oven, that breaks into a decidedly Derry accented rap, “I never thought I’d do it because it’s not what I’m about, but really can you blame me because they ate my f***in house”.
It doesn’t plumb psychological depths, but what it does do is more valuable: playing with a story material (folk tales) that goes back hundreds and maybe even thousands of years. Making it up and subverting it with wit as all gifted storytellers should.
And by god, do we need new and gifted storytellers? Nice one, Gemma and Sorcha.
Mike Fealty, Culture Unconfined (University of Liverpool) May 2020
MakeyUppers’ original, comic interpretation of classic fairy tales is currently being streamed on the University of Liverpool website as part of their Culture Unconfined Festival, an online celebration of film, drama, music and poetry created in response to the current COVID-19 crisis. Written and performed by Gemma Walker-Farren and Sorcha Shanahan, the video combines recordings of various live performances. The quality of the filming is quite amateur, with visual and sound issues throughout, which is very unfortunate, but does not distract from the excellent quality of the show and performances.
The show opens with Walker-Farren and Shanahan providing a quick explanation of the fairy tale genre and its role throughout world history as a means of education and communication. They then subtly exploit these functions as they proceed through a hilarious and unique reinterpretation of well known fairy tales while delicately commenting on modern society and gender roles.
Modern retellings of fairy tales are combined with brutally honest recitals of the originals. Cinderella, the Little Mermaid and Beauty all put in an appearance, and a delightfully harsh edge is given to characters usually thought of as sweetness and light. Commercial Disney retellings are juxtaposed against both the originals and the values of the modern world in a wonderfully thought provoking and, on occasion, disturbing, way.
The characterisation of Walker-Farren and Shanahan is excellent throughout the show, as they both play various characters and narrate the tales they are performing. Simple changes of costume and deliberately shoddy props heighten the comic effect of the performances, with the creation of a majestic white horse being particularly good.
This show is a wonderful dark comical look at a world we all know. Glass slippers are delicate shoes in which to wander through a world of race discrimination, vlogging, trolling, women’s issues, speed dating and the effect of all that on mental health in today’s world, but Walker-Farren and Shanahan are excellent guides and this is truly a triumph of fantastical proportions.
North West End
Donna M Day, Culture Unconfined (University of Liverpool) 2020
Picture the scene, you’re a small child and you love hearing stories, you especially enjoy Disney and are transfixed by the magical strong princes. Fast forward to adulthood and you realise you’ve been drip fed patriarchal bullshit since birth, well now it’s time to smash it.
Meet the The MakeyUppers, Gemma Walker-Farren and Sorcha Shanahan, and let them hold your hand through an hour of hilarious story telling.
Snow White and Cinderella are fixated by the prince, little mermaid realises losing her voice is not a problem, she only needs to look pretty, just DO NOT tell her there’s plenty more fish in the sea. We witness some classic gaslighting, and after being accused of kidnapping, the witch expresses her annoyance through the medium of rap.
Alternative bedtime stories is full of surprises, an expertly crafted script delivered by two comic pros, with impeccable timing and natural genius. I was laughing before it even began and the whole audience lol-ed throughout. So clever and I reckon they deserve their own prime-time channel 4 slot! A tale with new endings for the pissed off and woke #metoo generation, when ‘no’ finally means no. Time is up Pat Rirarchy, you may be everywhere but you won’t be entertained any longer. 5*
Debs Baird, Edinburgh Fringe 2018
[Alternative Bedtime Stories is] unlike anything I have witnessed before. Mammoth topics such as domestic abuse, rape culture and gender roles were addressed with such bewildering sensitivity and honesty that when I got home, I wondered how I could have laughed hysterically throughout the whole show. Gemma and Sorcha may, indeed, be witches, having created that rarest of things: thought-provoking comedy without a sententious bone in its body. Wonderful.
Theatre Premier, Waterside Theatre
Absolutely fantastic performance. This show is super funny and brilliantly delivered. Strong and important messages simmering beneath a frothy side-aching comedy, not to mention the acting. I'm super proud to share the city with you and I look forward to seeing you on national tv soon. I loved it!!!!
Theatre premier, Waterside Theatre
...bawdy, challenging, funny offering a wry tongue in cheek perspective on the "happily ever after" ideal.
I was reminded of Angela Carters work in that the Makey Uppers have a modern twist on old tales and bring out themes that are so relevant for today. Though it most certainly is not suitable for very young children for a nice cosy goodnight tale; for older children and adults it’s a joyful opportunity to hear tales that lead the audience into a very different sort of quirky magical world.
As a storyteller that loves tales that both entertain and teach I came away smiling and delighted I had the good sense to see this production. The performance was wonderful.
Eamonn keenan, Storyteller
Belfast Comedy Festival 2016
Hilarious, engaging, empowering, and so much fun; we wanted to jump on stage with you - "fuck the patriarchy!"
Both performers gave excellent comedic performances and both also had a real stage presence. They also wrote this clever and darkly humorous show. What talents and so much potential too!
I thought I would find the Bedtime Stories funny and engaging, which I most certainly did. However, I was surprised at how thought provoking this show was too, dealing with issues such as sexism, gender roles and domestic abuse. Even with that, my face was sore at the end from giggling and belly laughing throughout. You don’t often get to see a show like that, with sometimes silly humour but also a very important message. I look forward to more from this talented pair.
F**K the patriarchy indeed!!!