Join performance poet Joseph Coelho, National Poetry Day Ambassador, as he unravels familiar fairytales to create fresh contemporary classics in an enchanting performance for young and old alike.
A father returns home with a magical cloak. A cloak that hides a story…
Did you know that the ugly duckling was never ugly? He was truly monstrous! Or that Goldilocks was never a tale about a little girl. It was always a tale about a granny – a mean, thieving granny who has plans for something quite nasty.
Our poetic storyteller as he unwinds the true stories behind the happily ever afters and discover they’re maybe not as charming as you remember!
Joseph’s debut poetry collection, Werewolf Club Rules, won the prestigious CLPE Children’s Poetry Award (CLiPPA) in 2015. His second poetry collection, Overheard in a Tower Block, and debut picture book, Luna Loves Library Day, were published in 2017.
A Joseph Coelho production that toured nationally as part of Half Moon presents.
“Thrillingly grisly, darkly funny alternatives… stripping down familiar fairytales to their gruesome guts.”
Children’s Theatre Review, 2016
“Brilliant poetry and storytelling: I’ll never quite think about fairytales in the same way ever again. Thank you.”
Audience member @ Half Moon
“Perfectly pitched, gripping and funny – everyone at the library loved it, thank you.”
What was the inspiration for Fairytales Gone Bad?
I love faiytales and have always enjoyed twisting them slightly. I had some narrative poems that I was working on years ago and thought it would be a good idea to incorporate them into a longer piece.
Have you updated the stories?
I want to modernise traditional stories for today’s audience, while inspiring them with positive messages. I was interested in re-examining the morals of these stories. You always have a beautiful princess, but in 2016 we can do a bit better than that!
For example, in the original Ugly Duckling story the duckling becomes a beautiful swan. That’s always bothered me slightly because the message seems to be, ‘You’re okay, you are beautiful’, and I thought, ‘No, the duckling should be okay with how he looks. It should be an internal change rather than a physical change’. So I was very keen to write a version of the story where the duckling remains monstrous, but finds an inner peace with that monstrosity.
What is it about these stories that have kept them so popular?
I honestly believe that they speak to something primordial within us. A recent article spoke about a study that found these fairytales to have a history dating back thousands of years. I like to think that they connect to us on an instinctive level from a time when the whole world was new and we were discovering our place in it.
What is Grannylocks / The Monstrous Duckling about?
Grannylocks is about an old thieving Granny who sneaks into the Bears house when they are out only to be horrified at what she finds in there.
The Monstrous Duckling is a classic outsider story, an outsider who does not fit in and so is ridiculed by his so called peers only to find that he is actually fine the way he is and it is the world that is wrong.
What is Zombie-rella / Blood-red Hood about?
Zombie-rella plays with the idea that good is beautiful and ugly is bad. Cinderella is not simply turned into a princess, she dies and becomes a zombie – but for this particular prince, that is perfect!
Blood-Red Hood shows us a more realistic version of the popular tale, one where humans are the top predator and the natural world is merely fleeing in our path. Little Red is little but she is not weak, she is a hunter and a morally questionable one at that.
Are there any other true fairytales you’d like to discover in the future?
In the show I mention ‘Rat-punzle’ and ‘Jack and the Flesh Eating Beanstalks’ these tales are in the pipeline.
What can audiences look forward to?
An intimate piece of high quality theatre with beautiful props that emerge out of a cloak I’m wearing to help tell the story. There are also moments in the shows when audience members are invited up onto the performance space to take part, interact and help the storyteller tell the tales.
There are some wonderfully inventive moments involving your costume. How important is design to your work?
Design is a key part of the show. I originally met designer Sara Lowes when we both worked at The Discover Story Centre in Stratford. We had worked for years with many primary students in and around Stratford so knew that we worked well together and seeing her fantastic textile work I was desperate to create a show that would blend well with her skills. I approached Sara with the notion of a theatre piece that emerges from a cloak and from that starting point everything else was born.
The show’s called Fairytales Gone Bad. Do young audience like being a little scared?
I’ve worked with a lot of young students in schools and libraries and in my experience they all enjoy exploring a little gore, while in a safe environment. I want to give them something that is funny and a little bit dangerous, but in a funny way. The fabric of the show removes them from the horror and allows them to have fun.
I was so touched to have a father approach me after one show and say that his family had been desperate to find something suitable for their zombie obsessed son, as everything out there was too old, but this show was perfect. Hearing that filled me with joy as I created these tales for those little boys and girls who do not get a chance to enjoy the comically dark and gruesome.
What would you like audiences to take away with them after seeing the show?
Hopefully a new experience and to not take anything for granted! It’s poetic theatre with a love of words, it’s definitely for the whole family. I hope adults come away inspired.
And finally, if you were a fairytale, which fairytale would you be?
I would have to be Cinderella, I love the comedy of the three sisters and the magic provided by her transformation and of course the incredible ball, all of which are elements that I was very keen to keep in Zombie-rella.