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.

Alternative Bedtime Stories is being streamed on the University of Liverpool website until 15th May 2020

Reviewer: Donna M Day

Reviewed: 14th May 2020

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★