What do you get if you take Chicken Little, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and a whole host of other fairytale characters and plotlines, and put them onstage together for a twenty minute extended sketch? That was what the Christian Music and Drama society set out to discover with their annual ‘Play in a Day’. One day (read: five hours) to write, rehearse and stage a play for an eager audience. Entitled “Skyfalls” – by the audience after the production, no less – the play begins with an announcement from the BBC that the sky is falling. Again, according to Chicken Little. Or, rather, Chicken Big (Joe Hartropp) as he’s known now.
Hartropp copes well, delivering both playful anguish and love-struck teen (and hits home base later with his “She sees me as a duck” monologue). Our tour of Fairytaleland takes us next to see Little Red Riding Hood (Ariana Brighenti) making peace with the Big Bad Wolf (Rachel Oliver). Fitting her character’s name, Brighenti is given little to do (the scarlet academic gown was a nice touch), but her interactions with Oliver are fun.
We soon discover that Chicken has a bit of a crush on Sleeping Beauty (Meghan Wilson). That’s something of an understatement: he’s had his eyes on her for a loooong time, and even watches her when she’s…well, sleeping. However, before he has to ‘resort’ to True Love’s First Kiss, Beauty awakes: turns out she was enjoying her Freshers’ Week a little too much. Be warned, freshers – drink makes you Sleeping, not Beauty. Before you know it, we’re in the cottage of Snow White (Elizabeth Perry), where the fair maiden has enslaved her one remaining dwarf, Grumpy (Billie Anderson) Apparently, the other dwarfs disappeared in a mining incident, a reference which felt just a little too relevant and unnecessary. Anderson holds her own with what little she has to do, but it’s the interplay between Wilson and Perry which holds the scene. However, Perry steals the show with the following exchange as she tries to steal Chicken’s affections from Beauty…
Chicken Big I’m Chicken Big.
Snow White Yes, you are.
Delicious! The plot then hits full throttle: turns out a certain Jack has hacked away the beanstalk that held up the sky, and the chopped down vegetable is now lying in Snow’s forest. It is Oliver’s moment to shine as Wolf sacrifices himself for the greater good: he huffs…and he puffs…and he blows the beanstalk back into place. Hooray! Although I’m sure the cast were not going for touching, weirdly, the scene of the other characters mourning Wolf’s death turns out to be genuinely so.
Throughout the climax, Anderson provides musical accompaniment on the piano – the first note hit the perfect comedy button, but the rest (whilst beautifully played) was ultimately unnecessary. Everything wraps up pretty quickly then, with Little Red starting up a Villain’s Rehab group…as you do. A final comment to the company would be to have taken some more risks. In a venue like the Baptist Church, you don’t get fancy tech or even a stage. But this is theatre. For example, there’s no reason the dead body of Grumpy couldn’t have become the remains of the beanstalk for the finale, thus removing the awkward moment when the dead guy stood up to leave the stage and an audience member shouted out “He lives!” Ultimately, though, the show was a triumph, and the audience loved it: whatever it may have lacked in places, it certainly made up for in an enthusiastic cast (three freshers and three committee members, though you wouldn’t know which were which). The answer to the question I began by asking? Something along the lines of a watered-down version of Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” with a nice big dollop of Freshers’ Week fun.