Review: Heroine, VAULT Festival

Lizzie Milton’s insightful and amusing deep dive into folklore comes up with the goods in Heroine at the VAULT Festival

“You can be a heroine and still have a way to go yet”

Enrique Iglesias could be one for you, Mariah Carey thinks you are one; and so did David Bowie. Popular culture lacks no paeans for heroes but when it comes to celebrating heroines, the well seems to run a little dry (and no, it’s not just because it is a more difficult rhyme…!) Snatchback and Joyous Gard’s Heroine looks to redress that balance just a little as it delves into folkloric traditions from around the globe to celebrate the unsung.

Written by Lizzie Milton (10) and directed by Asia Osborne (Call Me Fury and The Teind), the show puts its women front and centre as we meet Mother, Maid and Crone who are here to take us on a storytelling odyssey. And as we journey from West African tales to Aztec traditions, from Celtic mysteries to Inuit romance, there’s a funny and frank appraisal of role of women in these stories and what they often have to endure in the name of the patriarchy.

The man who is surprised that his Selkie wife isn’t in love with him after a decade of captivity, the kings who send girls over the bridge of a single hair, the fathers who push their daughters off cliffs or betroth them to cannibalistic suitors… Fairytales have always been dark but Milton makes you really pay attention, not just to the indignities but also to the immense fortitude present. None of these women are about to give up, even if they’re anchored to the bottom of the sea.  

Kudzanayi Chiwana, Beth Eyre and Henri Merriam make for a compelling trio of narrators, throwing themselves wholeheartedly into the telling of these tales but also passing comment on them – the suggestion that the miller’s daughter and the old woman lived happily ever after seeming eminently sensible. And Osborne’s direction amps up the hypnotic feel of the recitals, aided immeasurably by the lighting design of Rajiv Pattani and the evocative soundscape from Odinn Orn Hilmarsson. We can be heroines.

Running time: 60 minutes (without interval)
Photos: Ali Wright
Heroine is booking at the VAULT Festival until 8th March

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