“So you think you can be a princess?”
Caught somewhere between theatre and dance, art installation and gay club extravaganza, Stuart Saint’s Princess makes for a fascinating project, conceived as a response to traditional Disneyfied notions of fairytale femininity and finding something altogether more Grimm at its heart. Accompanied by a pulsing 80s-influenced electropop score by Saint, who also directs and choreographs, it’s a show full of striking moments.
It’s also a faintly perplexing show – a detailed synopsis in the programme offers clues as to what is happening once we’ve gone down the rabbit hole but even so, the narrative thread is hard to follow. Matters aren’t helped by the talented company having to multi-role their way through the mash-up of storybook tropes, too often lacking the time to give characters the necessary definition before the next costume change and then the next.
But stepping back from such conventional notions and just letting Princess’s kinetic energy wash right over you allows for real enjoyment. From Jennie Dickie’s Young Girl, struggling to break free of media conditioning, to Morgan Scott’s lean Rabbit who guides her on this journey, there’s moments of visual splendour and creative dynamism that shimmer under the disco lights along with the bare flesh and extended limbs.
Saint’s choreography also reaches ambitiously and doesn’t always quite hit the mark, some members of the company not quite nailing the precision needed for the contemporary flow of much of the movement. When it works though, as in Onyemachi Ejimofor queered-up Wicked Stepmother with her blend of streetdance and vogueing, it’s genuinely thrilling. With some tidying up of the rough edges and a stronger sense of a narrative throughline, this Princess might yet become a queen.