The Darkness Hides Gothic Metaphor: Angela Carter’s HAIRY TALES

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Photo credit: Roger Metcalf; Amy Meyer and Poornima Kirby as The Countess. The Countess is beside herself. See what I did there? No? Fine.

Presented by Imaginary Beasts
Angela Carter’s Hairy Tales: “Vampirella: Lady of the House of Love”, “The Company of Wolves”
Directed by Matthew Woods
Music composition & sound by Sam Beebe
Choreography by Kiki Samko

October 4 – 26, 2013
Thursdays at 7:30 pm (Vampirella & The Company of Wolves)
Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 pm (Vampirella & The Company of Wolves)
Saturdays & Sundays at 4:00 pm (Puss in Boots)
Plaza Black Box Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts
539 Tremont Street
Boston, MA
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Review by Kitty Drexel

***Be aware that this is NOT a children’s show. Unless you enjoy subjecting your dear ones to brief nudity, incest, cannibalism, necrophilia and heaps of innuendo. You sick bastards.***

(Boston) Some of the reviews for Hairy Tales lead with how author Angela Carter isn’t popular in the US. Not entirely true. She’s famous in the UK, yes, but she’s also famous here. She’s famous among people who enjoy magical realism (and modern fairytales) and can’t abide trashy alternatives. Carter’s not as famous as Jane Austen or the Brontës but famous enough that her books are still published in the US. They can be found at your local library or on Amazon. They are delicious. Read them.

Vampires and werewolves are scalding hot right now. There are more spinoff’s, movies and TV programmes than there are heaving bosoms to enjoy them. Supernatural creatures are often* metaphors for sexual desire and fulfillment. Female sexual objectification sells and, when paired with the supernatural, its related media will be inhaled by the angsty. Thus, we have a dearth of offerings to present to the generations that haven’t read Dracula but have read the famous Mormon fanfic. In the case of  “The Company of Wolves” (TCOW) and “Vampirella,” objectification gets a rest and liberation takes the stage. There is still enough angst to go around.  

TCOW is a retelling of the classic tale of Little Red Riding Hood (Erin Butcher) who goes to visit her Granny (Lorna Nogueira) on a cold winter’s day. She has been warned to be wary of men in the woods but balks at potential horrors when she meets a charming Huntsman (Michael Underhill). This allegorical telling has been twisted to reveal the power society gives female sexual desire. The Werewolf’s (Man’s) ravenous hunger is fearsome but it is Red who uses her own powers of seduction to calm the savage beast.

“Vampirella” is the tale of a preternaturally beautiful Countess (Poornima Kirby & Amy Meyer) who is cursed with sensitive eyes, anemia and a dejected disposition. She is the daughter in the line of Vlad the Impaler (the nimble William Schuller) who lives in the Carpathians. She rarely receives guests but is happy to allow our hero (Underhill) to visit. As expected, the hero is consumed by the Countess in an act of thinly veiled sexual metaphor.

Carter’s works skew towards the feminist and grotesque. She regularly makes her female characters both villain and hero. The female corps of Imaginary Beast adapt to Carter’s demands exceedingly well. There are no simpering victims (not for long anyway) in Carter’s works and the ladies of IB do not wilt under the pressure.  Butcher’s succulent innocence as Little Red is captivating. Aly as Mrs. Beane brings the necessary levity to “Vampirella” to make the story enjoyable rather than horrifying. Poornima Kirby and Amy Meyer are extensions of each other as they engage in human puppetry to present the dichotomy that is the beautiful vampire countess.

The men are equally as brilliant but this show isn’t really about them.

The choreographing talents of Kiki Samko were enlisted for the dance numbers in TCOW. The colloquial wedding dances are energetic but run a hair long. After a few great minutes, the dance becomes a distraction rather than the scene modifier it is intended to be.

Be aware that these are NOT a children’s shows. Imaginary Beasts rightly advertises this production as for adult audiences. Please believe them. There are mentions of incest, cannibalism, necrophilia and heaps of innuendo. Although the scenes aren’t visually graphic the script is. Vampires and werewolves aren’t sexy. They are murderous beasts. And that goes double for Human beings in disguise. Bring your children to see “Puss in Boots.” I hear it’s lovely.

There is a lot to love about this production. Imaginary Beasts is very good at doing what it does: exploratory theatre with heaps of drama and blocking that titillates the line between dance and gesture. There isn’t enough space to detail all of the wonderful elements. If you’ve enjoyed their theatre before, Angela Carter’s Hairy Tales will satisfy. If you haven’t and you aren’t squeamish, then you should. It’s perfect for Halloween.

 

*Sometimes a blood sucking monster is just a blood sucking monster.

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