Scary Little Girls - The Full Brontė
Francesca Lewis, Culture Correspondent
Part pub quiz, part lecture and part cabaret revue, "The Full Brontė" is the latest literary extravaganza by Cornwall-based production team Scary Little Girls.
Under the stage names Monika and Nom de Plume, Rebecca and Sharon founded the company together, making it their mission to promote "the artistic work of women in all aspects of theatrical story-telling" and "promote characters which are little known, historically or culturally excluded, or usually told from one perspective only." When I spoke to them after their show at Square Chapel in Halifax, they told me, "We are a feminist theatre company", which I think is a brave and commendable thing to say in 2012.
Their love affair with literary themes began when they were commissioned by Brighton Fringe to create a show called Wilde Nights - inspired, of course, by Oscar Wilde. They have since produced work based on Charles Dickens, Daphne du Maurier, and now, the Brontė family.
Structured by Rebecca/Monika, but mostly improvised, the show is a wild, chaotic ride, led by Monika as the diva-esque compere. Sharon/Nom plays her assistant and resident Brontė expert, a strange, nerdy girl in a big jumper and a red beret. Supporting with music at a grand piano is Nick, another member of the company, as Emily, an "expert in Yorkshire music".
Through comedy sketches, songs and audience participation, Monika tries to put on a professional and impressive show, but is constantly undermined to great comedic effect by Nom's clueless bumbling and Emily's nervous defiance. After the show Nick, who has performed in drag many times, said, "I've never enjoyed performing in a dress so much."
The audience were seated at tables to encourage a cabaret atmosphere and they gleefully joined in with Monika's antics, keen to show their knowledge of the local literary giants. Rebecca told me that they had been delighted to be able to bring the show to the birthplace of the Brontės, adding, "Yorkshire is the best place!"
Some of the audience participation took the form of gentle ribbing, which one man (whom I had the unfortunate privilege of sitting next to) did not appreciate. When Monika affectionately mocked his baldness, he must have taken offence, because he did not return after the interval! Rebecca spoke to me about the importance of gauging one's audience - what goes down a treat in Brighton, might not be so popular in a rural village hall - but I felt that she did this perfectly at Square Chapel.
The Full Brontė is a quirky, entertaining, interactive experience that occasionally veers into self-indulgence, but when creating such beautiful, unscripted theatrical anarchy, perfection is overrated.
Scary Little Girls - The Full Brontė, 16th December 2012, 11:21 AM