Disney films may have set the contemporary standard for fairy tales, but the prim and polished versions of Sleeping Beauty and The Little Mermaid that exist in the popular consciousness are a far cry from the dark and dirty realities of the original stories. It was the darkness of such fairy tales, in particular Snow White, that inspired cabaret artist Nikki Nouveau to create her brand new show, Snow Fright & The Apple Of Temptation

“There’s a lot of blood and gore and murder in Snow White itself, much more than people might realise!” Nouveau says. “There’s the apple laced with poison, but there’s also ritual cannibalism, and sexual awakening – there’s even a scene where the witch stabs Snow White with a comb. It’s a very dark tale for children, but when I read it, I realised it would be a great basis for a cabaret show.”

 

Disney’s version of Snow White focuses very much on the heroine’s relationship with the handsome prince, but in Nouveau’s gothed-out, steampunk take, the character of the witch is emphasised. “It’s all about the witch feeling envy towards Snow White, because Snow White is a newer version of her former self,” she says. “The witch envious of this, sees herself growing older and feeling less empowered.”

 

“Snow White is very powerful,” she continues, “but that power, in the beginning, is untapped. The relationship between the two is a rivalry. The witch sets off to cast a spell on Snow White, and through this, she is able to steal some of Snow White’s power. The audience sees this take place, and Snow White realises the power she has and then rises to the occasion and becomes a little witch herself.”

 

Notions of death and rebirth in Snow White also fascinated Nouveau as she put the show together. “There’s a pagan idea that we have endings all throughout our lives, and are constantly reborn,” she says. “A divorce, a graduation, a new job; all of these are endings, after which we become new versions of ourselves. In this tale, Snow White undergoes a rebirth – she is awakened, and transformed into an entirely new being.”

 

The show is a two-hander, between Snow White and the witch, meaning that each night, a new handsome prince is selected from the audience. “When the Snow Fright is transformed, she’s sexually awakened, so she seeks out a prince,” Nouveau says. “She goes into the audience and flirts with the men, and then chooses a prince to take on stage with her. The witch works the audience as well, but her role is quite comedic – the audience really relishes that.”

 

Snow Fright is presented as a cabaret, and accompanying the performance is a three-piece orchestra, comprising violin, clarinet and keyboard. “There’s a lot of classical music in the show, like some Edvard Grieg pieces,” Nouveau explains, “and there are some Germanic-style songs like ‘Mein Herr’ and ‘Cabaret’, and ‘Bring On The Men’ from the musical Jekyll & Hyde. There are a lot of musical styles, but the musical backdrop is more one of classical German composers and instrumental pieces.”

 

Finally, of course, comes the big question – do the dwarves figure into this new imagining of the Snow White tale? “No, they don’t,” Nouveau says with a laugh, “but that mainly comes down to budgetary reasons – I couldn’t really incorporate the dwarves into the story, I just wanted to focus on the two characters. It intensifies the show to see it as a two-hander.”

 

BY ALASDAIR DUNCAN

 

Nikki Nouveau performs Snow Fright And The Apple Of Temptation at Slide Lounge on Thursday September 12.

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