This week I have been particularly interested in looking at the appeal of fantasy and being taken somewhere else as an audience member. I have been watching how Lu is creating another world for the story to exist in. The script for Rapunzel is entirely madcap and eccentric. Lu often talks about how the show is a mash-up of lots of different styles (Shakespearian, Blackadder, panto, clown) and she believes that by honouring all of it, we can create something coherent enough for an audience to feel at home and safe within.
I am left asking why audiences love mad-cap, eccentric, fantasy, fairy-tale stories. Why do so many people flock to the theatre to see these tales again and again?
Chadbourn (2008) says “the more rational the world gets, the more we demand the irrational in our fiction.”
Collins (2014) defines irrational as
- inconsistent with reason or logic; illogical; absurd
- incapable of reasoning
In the show Rapunzel meets a Boar who gives her a poo which conceals three golden acorns. It is with these acorns that Rapunzel overcomes many obstacles on her journey- this includes turning one of the baddies into a rabbit.
The irrational happens in front of your eyes, in that magical moment when the acorn hits the ground and the evil prince turns into a rabbit. There is no reasoning or logic but as an audience we run with it. We believe it because we want to.
Why do we want to believe it? Is it because the show allows us to escape somewhere else for a moment? Throughout my placement I keep asking about escapism but always I am answered with two questions, where are the audience escaping from and where are the audience escaping to?
But perhaps the audience aren’t escaping anywhere. Every time I talk about other worlds Lu doesn’t quite reply with what I expect. I always want her to tell me about the fantasy world where the show exists, I want her to tell me it doesn’t take place on earth. But instead she will tell me something like “Rapunzel exists in a world which is poised between safety and freedom.”
After all she has no reason to tell me the show exits in a fantasy world. It is set in Tuscany, Italy which is very much a part of the real world. But then again, I’m almost certain magic acorns don’t exist there.
The fantasy world of Rapunzel takes the world as we know it, flips it on its head and spins it around a few times in order to show us it from a different perspective. It offers the audience the chance to see the world for the first time again. Fantasy allows us to imagine this world in different ways.
Chadbourn (2008) also offers an argument against fantasy as escapism when he says: “I don’t write fantasy fiction simply to provide a trap-door from reality. For me, the genre is as much about the world around us as EastEnders. But instead of coming slap-bang up against it, fantasy charts the unconscious hopes and aspirations of our modern society through symbolism and allegory in story-forms as old as humanity. It’s about turning off the mobile phone and the computer and remembering who we are in the deepest, darkest parts of ourselves.”
It was when I read that I was reminded of something Lu had written in an email before rehearsals began.
Lu said “Fairytales are constantly transforming with the age – they reflect and confirm our contemporary cultural ideas, and not always our most appealing ones… They are revealing about our fears as well as the way our society desires to see itself. But, the fact that they are constantly transforming liberates us in this telling to bring a story we think is relevant and resonant for our audience to the stage.”
Therefore, it could be argued that audiences love fairy tale, fantasy stories because they offer the opportunity to project your own thoughts, feelings, hopes and worries on to it, in a completely safe way. You can see them played out in a different world.
Chadbourn, M. (2008) The fantastic appeal of fantasy. The Telegraph. [Online] 12 April. [Accessed: 6 November 2015].
Collins. (2014) Collins English Dictionary. 12th ed. United Kingdom: Collins: United Kingdom.
Fantasy: Why is it so popular. (n.d.) [Online] Available: http://www.rowena-cory-daniells.com/about/writing-craft/fantasy-why-is-it-so-popular/ [Accessed: 3 January 2016].