Climb to the top of the stairs at C Nova and you'll find a children’s playroom: fairy lights and leaves made from book pages decorate the walls; a bed sits in the corner; a tub of dress-up clothes with hats and tutus is waiting for playtime. Jeremy, Rose and Alex sit on the floor, and we sit do too, pulling up cushions to be close to the action.
The three child characters (played by adult performers) are left for the night with their babysitter, and to pass the time Rose picks up an as-yet-unread copy of Grimms' fairyfatales. In Damsels in Success, writer and director Kate Stephenson gives us a high-energy, gleeful and self-deprecating reenactment of these stories, with three children discovering them for the first time using toys from their playroom, and a couple of props and performers sourced from the audience besides.
The biggest joy in the work is Rose’s constant questioning of these tales. Why would the Princess have skin so thin she could feel a pea? How come Gretel always has to listen to her brother? Who decided that Sleeping Beauty had to marry the Prince? She is incredulous at the situations these women have been forced into, and does everything she can to make it just a bit better.
Stephenson is never outright critical or dismissive of these stories, but Damsels in Success looks intelligently at them through a contemporary lens. Through this, Stephenson embraces a world where children can be questioning and skeptical, but believe in magic all the same.