Lasting Impressions: The Three Snake Leaves

Warwick Arts Centre, 13th December, 2012.

⭐️⭐️

In 2012, as a huge fan of the Grimm’s Fairytales, I was excited to see this flyer:

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It looks dark and intriguing, no? It looks like something that could really grip an audience and take them through a sinister forest of twisted tales, no? Well, that was my impression. I’ve been searching for years to find a production of Artaudian calibre; something truly affecting and eerie to genuinely put the audience on edge. My eyes therefore bee-lined for this flyer because it seemed like a potential candidate for this elusive style that I’ve been intrigued by; from the tin, this looked both dark and intriguing. The contents of the tin itself, however, were certainly not.

Unlike the flyer seemed to suggest, the show consisted of some very nice people who sat or stood on stage and recited the Grimm’s brother’s tale. The flyer described the performance as being about ‘three dishevelled travellers lost in a forest’ whose stories ”seamlessly’ blend in ways which present to the audience the complexities of adult life. It used enticing words like ‘moving’, ‘cruel’, ‘humorous’ and ‘beguiling’. It was billed as ‘performance storytelling’ with the performers billed as ‘three masters of contemporary storytelling’. The mention of the travellers and the use of the billing ‘performance storytelling’ had led me to believe that there would be some evidence of characters adopted by the storytellers and some recognisable signs of a performance of the story, rather than a reading of it. Apparently, the performance aspect was in fact the reading itself, accompanied by some live musicians. Very little of this production seemed to be consciously constructed as a performance; it was a little too much like story time on the carpet at Primary School for my liking.

Granted, if the flyer had not been so misleading, I would probably have been far less disappointed and far more appreciative of the recital skills of the performers; I was impressed with Linda Marlowe’s reading of Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘The World’s Wife collection’ at The Unity Theatre in 2011, so readings as a performance genre are not beyond my enjoyment (although Marlowe did have some token props and more a more engaging style via the channeling of the characters). Unfortunately however, I went along to ‘The Three Snake Leaves’ expecting something beautifully eerie as the flyer seemed to suggest, and sadly, it simply was not.

I have no critical memory of the performers as my lasting impressions- I’m sure they will have been impressive in their delivery if that was their skill area but tellingly, I can’t say more than that of them, which suggests a lack of memorability. My disappointment seems to fall at the door of those making the advertising choices; the one thing absolutely certain in my memory is that the show did not present what was suggested on the tin.

Fortunately, I have not since been so misled by the marketing of a production, so perhaps this was a fluke. Here’s hoping…

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