I'm Hans Christian Andersen
by Rachel Rose Reid
Pleasance Theatre, Edinburgh
4 – 30 August 2010
cast list | reviews | flyer
Performed by Rachel Rose Reid
Directed and designed by Phillip Breen
by Alice Jones
Rachel Rose Reid, 28, was crowned Young Storyteller of the Year in 2007. I'm Hans Christian Andersen is a polished hour of fairytales and lost love. Eyes glittering, wearing a dress covered in skulls, she spins an intriguing web of Andersen's life and his darker tales such as 'The Shadow' alongside her search for the perfect first love – or opening page to her own story. Directed by Phillip Breen (Party, The Stefan Golaszewski Plays), it's a classy, compelling hour. Reid's a consummate performer and remains very much one to watch.
by Donald Hutera
Rachel Rose Reid, who scored a big hit on the 2009 Fringe with her show And They Lived, is a young contemporary storyteller of immense skill and breathless conviction. In a neat touch her new piece I’m Hans Christian Andersen (at Soho Theatre Oct 5, then touring) premiered on the 135th anniversary of the Danish author’s death. This hour-long performance isn’t a conventional biography, but rather a blending of her experiences of love and its often painful attendant ironies as filtered through aspects of his life and work.
Tellingly clad in a dress in which skulls and broken hearts dance amid red roses, Reid knows that Andersen isn’t kids’ stuff. She drags the gloomy, sensitive Dane away from his absorption into mainstream culture via the likes of Disney’s The Little Mermaid — in other words, forget sugary singing lobsters — and instead focuses on the poignant truths and dark shadows lurking inside his stories of impossible love, self-sacrifice and rejection. I’m not entirely convinced by the framing device of a radio, nor the use of a couple of Joni Mitchell’s songs, but there’s no faulting Reid’s command of her craft.
BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE
by Corinne Salisbury
Reid is a professional storyteller, and this her new solo show is a loose, free-flowing piece inspired by the life of Hans Christian Andersen.
Part of its purpose is to question the very nature of myth and story, and so she interweaves factual accounts of events in his life with some of the more fantastical myths that have sprung up around him. She also segues from the story of his life to the stories he told in his life so smoothly that you don’t always notice at first that she’s now telling the tale of the loneliness of a shirt collar or the thwarted ambitions of a chimneysweep porcelain figurine rather than the loneliness or thwarted ambitions of Hans himself.
It’s a fine and subtle way to draw his life and his art together. Reid also brings in tales of her own thwarted loves and futile spinning of stories around men she meets – only for reality to eventually confound them. “Women who watch romantic comedies tend to lose men because they expect their partner to be able to read their mind”, she says drily.
So this is a story about the element of danger involved in storytelling – especially when we tell stories to ourselves. Although funny and believable, Reid’s tales of her own failed romantic encounters are perhaps not so riveting as when she’s talking about Andersen – because his was a fascinating life. She reads from the letters he wrote to a young Danish nobleman he was infatuated by; Hans’s eventual rejection by the object of his love propels him into a life spent travelling, always “hastening on to the next thing” and encouraging his imagination to cultivate belief in there always being something, intangible, glinting, just out of reach, that will complete him. It’s interesting to think of how his life influenced his stories, and especially how events in his life led to his work taking a much darker turn.
Reid’s approach is so personal, idiosyncratic and unpredictable that the play never comes close to being the straightforward, earnest biopic it could have been in other hands. It’s much more like Peter Shaffer reimagining Mozart – an artistic life retold, as the vehicle for another artist’s ideas and preoccupations. It’s marvellous. And her delivery is polished – her voice is a precision instrument and her sentences have a practised rhythm. She spins them long, without a breath, as if she’s getting carried away on them, until you wonder how her lungs can cope with it.
She’s also particularly great at flipping in a heartbeat from effusive to deadpan, or ending a rapt sentence with a suddenly downbeat conclusion; when, again and again, a story that begins in hope ends in disappointment. She pokes fun at the Disney retelling of The Little Mermaid, which insists of course on a happy ending – in the original story the mermaid didn’t get her love, and dissolved into foam atop the waves.
Likewise in the story of the shadow that escapes its human and leads a dark, amoral, successful life without him: there’s a cynicism towards the idea of having a positive outlook on the world; “you use poetry”, the shadow mocks its former owner, “to cover over the world’s misery with her honeyed veil”.
Reid uses her fair amount of poetry herself, at the same time as she frequently undercuts herself. A gem of a show, about how we see the world – that endlessly relevant story. And there’s some beautiful singing too.
by Martin Millar
Rachel Rose Reid is a professional story teller and she blew away the competition last year with a late night gem of a show that was one of the highlights of the Festival. This year she is back, at the much more suitable afternoon slot, and she is better than ever, delivering a much more structured performance.
As last year, she takes the theme of the princess and shares with the crowd fairy tales from all over the world. It works as a show because the simple tales, molded into Reid’s own vision, are told with such beauty. Her face and hands helping to convey her world. This year it is a much more personal show combining the life and obsessions of Han’s Christian Anderson with her own experiences of searching for love.
Watching her perform is a joy to behold. When she talks she has the audience enchanted from start to finish, delivered in a rapid-fire delivery that constantly ebbs and flows in speed and style further enhanced by her ability to make the world around her seem like a magical place but all grounded in reality with her witty, dry delivery.
She is a stunning story teller but really needs pause for breath to let some of the more beautiful turns of phrases sink into the crowds minds. As some beautiful moments come dangerously close to washing over the crowd, but no matter as it's a lovely experience getting lost in her world.
I’m Hans Christian Anderson? I am urging you to get a ticket more like.
ALL THE FESTIVALS
by David Marren
The new work from Rachel Rose Reid, I’m Hans Christian Andersen, is indeed a beguiling one. Opening with ‘The Little Mermaid’ as envisioned as the Disney film Reid stops on reaching the conclusion and states correctly that this is not how the original story as written by Andersen ended. The realization that Disney has appropriated several of Andersen’s works and distorted them prompted Reid to start reading the stories again and thus was inspired to tell her own story in the style of the Danish writer. What follows is an hour long show as colourful and vivid in its use of language and delivery as any Disney interpretation is in the visual medium.
Starting where any good tale begins when she was a child and dreamed of being adopted as then there may be a chance that she was, in fact the child of royalty and thus could one day be reclaimed and placed in the palace and accompanying lifestyle which was rightfully hers. On realising that this was never going to be the case Reid thus embarked on the mundane life of reality but opened her mind and ideas up to exotic flights of fancy. The audience are invited to listen to tales of a first love that sweeps her away but ends shortly after she wakes to discover the object of her hearts desires masturbating over her sleeping form. Moving on to other important life events – punctuated only, on separate occasions, by the wafting sounds of Joni Mitchell’s ‘This Flight Tonight’ and a ringing telephone- Reid alternately assuages our senses then works herself into a frenzy all the while engaging the rapt attention of her audience in a vice like grip.
It is certainly an engrossing hour. For the duration of the show you can escape into the myriad fantasies and dreamscapes that Reid conjures up out of her imagination whilst drawing on subjects familiar to her. Not once does your attention feel the need to wander. The audience is almost reverential in the silent appreciation that they afford her imaginative storytelling. And this, in essence is what the act is, highly intelligent all encapsulating story telling. I saw Reid’s show last year and she has honed her act into something far more substantial in the interim. Then she came across as confident but now she seems to be totally in command of her material. Closing with a haunting, ethereal version of Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case of You’ Reid departs the stage but has still left an indelible impression. Highly engrossing and weirdly wonderful!
by Natasha Tripney
Rachel Rose Reid is a compelling teller of stories. She has a warm, engaging voice, a voice that draws the audience in, and an open, inviting style of performance.
The show has something of a collage quality, the various elements knitting nicely together. An air of the bittersweet permeates and old stories sound fresh in her mouth. Her delivery is polished, with not a word out of place.Her latest solo show sees her drawing on the work and life of Hans Christian Andersen, another spinner of stories. She weaves the details of his life in among retellings of his tales, contrasting them with her own experiences of love, with its absence of pastel-pink castles and Disney-worthy princes. With each disappointment, another page is torn from her notebook, another fairy tale curtailed.
Reid has a lovely singing voice and while her inclusion of two songs could be termed indulgent, they turn out to be highlights, especially her beautiful closing rendition of Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You. In fact it would have been interesting to see her push the cabaret element of the show a little further, to add a little more texture to what is an intriguing and graceful but low-key performance.
Flyer design by Pete Le May
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