Caro Meets Children's Show Interview Theatre Interview

Hannah Mulder and Bonnie Mitchell: Snow White And The Happy Ever After Beauty Salon

By | Published on Sunday 9 December 2018

If you’re looking for a fab Christmas show treat for your whole family, I reckon we have a contender in ‘Snow White And The Happy Ever After Beauty Salon’, which is set to start its run at Ovalhouse this week. It’s the work of The Wrong Crowd, a brilliant company, who we first met a while ago up at the Edinburgh Festival.

To find out more about the show, and The Wrong Crowd, I spoke to two representatives: Hannah Mulder, director of the show, and one of her company co-founders Bonnie Mitchell.

CM: Can you start by telling us what story line to expect from the show…? It doesn’t sound much like what most people would expect from a ‘Snow White’?
HM: It’s a bit different! There’s still lots of the recognisable moments – a poison apple, a woman crazed by obsession with her reflection in a magic mirror, various attempts on Snow’s life and refuge with seven underground folk… you’ll have to find out who they are by seeing the show! But there’s also plenty of updating, reversals and giving Snow more agency and power in her life and her story.

CM: In what way does the character differ from that of the more traditional tellings?
HM: In the Grimms version we are all most familiar with, she’s a very sweet, innocent child who gets shunted around and done to, rather than having any say or power to direct her own life. Although aspects of that are part of the story, in that she obviously doesn’t choose some of the bad things that happen to her, we’ve given her more opportunity to learn and influence and have agency in what happens to her, or how she responds to what happens to her. She also more actively questions the world and culture in which she finds herself and strives for something different.

CM: What made you want to create a show about this story?
HM: When we revisited it, we just thought this is a really great story that hangs together so well and the internal rhythm of the story is really satisfying. Also we felt that the themes, about how dangerous it can be to get obsessed with ones reflection is really relevant in our culture where things like social media constantly reflect us back to ourselves in ways which are really unhealthy. That felt like a juicy thing to explore.

CM: How would you describe the show? What should the uninitiated expect from a show by The Wrong Crowd?
HM: A lot of fun, being transported to a different world, lots of moment that stretch the imagination and compelling storytelling that takes you with it. This particular show is pretty sparkly! It’s set in a 50s fairytale beauty salon, so there’s a fair bit of glitz and glamour as well as more down to earth moments and there’s tons of live music and songs.

CM: Can you explain what creative process you go through in creating a show…?
HM: It’s different every time but essentially we spend time with the story and talk a lot amongst our creative team. We always then get together in a room with actors and play. Lots of our ideas and understanding of what we want to make come out of a live collaboration. For us design, story, music, text all comes in right from the start. And then, in this case, Mike our writer went away and wrote various drafts until we felt ready to go into rehearsal. We’ve been changing plenty since then too!

CM: Can you tell us a bit about The Wrong Crowd – how did the company come together, and with what aims?
BM: We started our Wrong Crowd journey in 2011 with a simple goal; to better connect people to themselves, each other and the world around them.

The Wrong Crowd’s co-founders Rachael Canning, Hannah Mulder, and me, Bonnie Mitchell, had all worked together on projects previously, with a shared loved for visual storytelling. We wanted to make theatre that reaches across the generations, not patronising kids, and capturing the imaginations of adults. It was important to us from the outset that the theatre we make encourages conversation between the generations, and inspires people of all ages to play together and make things.

Since then we have grown in both scale and ambition. We became a registered charity in 2014 and were selected to become Theatre Royal Plymouth’s first ever Resident Theatre Company in 2016.

CM: What would you regard as the highlights of the company’s output/experiences so far?
BM: We made a show in 2016 called ‘Kite’, in which a young girl comes to terms with her mother’s death. There were countless experiences where audience members, both young and old, shared their personal experiences of grief with us. And told us how much it had helped to watch our show, as a gateway to difficult conversations. It was a profound experience for the whole company.

Another highlight would be premiering our first opera ‘Swanhunter’ at The Royal Opera House. Just a sort of pinch yourself look where you are kind of experience.

Or perhaps the show in Edinburgh at the Fringe where all the most important industry people were in the room and the haze machine wouldn’t turn off. It was apparently very “atmospheric”.

CM: What ambitions does the company have for the future?
BM: We are about to start developing shows to tour across non-theatre spaces in our our home region of the South West. We are going to challenge ourselves to retain the recognisable visual flair of the shows we make, without relying on lights, sound and set in the same way. We want to entertain and inspire audiences in libraries, halls, schools and community spaces. We hope to be part of the brilliant ground swell of creativity across the South West that happens in both rural and urban areas.

We also have an ambition to tell stories on a much larger scale. And to take our work overseas.

CM: What’s coming up next, after the Ovalhouse run?
BM: We are going pretty much straight into rehearsals for ‘Kite’, the show we mentioned earlier, that was first made in 2016 for the London International Mime Festival. We’re redeveloping the show, with a new cast, new sections of music, new puppets, and a redesign of the set. We’ll be working near home at Dartington in Devon. So we’re imagining there will be some time spent flying kites on Dartmoor.

‘Snow White And The Happy Ever After Beauty Salon’ is on at Ovalhouse from 12-30 Dec, and is suitable for ages 6+. See the venue website here for more information and to book tickets.

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