Written & Directed by Cara Johnston
Produced by The Miles Sisters: Courtney & Cara
As Rome burned, Nero played the fiddle. As the Capitol rioted, Trump engorged on hate. But when the Place de la Bastille was stormed, and Paris was on the brink of revolution, Marie Antoinette performed.
One final performance, a fitting turn on the Cinderella tale from the Marie Antoinette’s Petit Théâtre de la Reine within Versailles, unaware of the growing retribution arriving on the doorstep. And as rack and ruin descend across the country, one thing remains steadfast – don’t tell the Queen.
Every year, gems fall by the wayside of the Festival Fringe’s colossal magnitude, only to unearth themselves in the final moments. Now with an on-demand streaming service, this has never been more accurate. The Little Glass Slipper as Performed by the Queen of France and her Friends tracks the final days of the last Queen of France as the dawning realisation of the monarchies doom approaches, and the woman of few friends is offered one last performance on the stage she adored before the curtain, and the guillotine, falls.
A glittering spectacle of vaudeville theatre and contemporary insights into continuum, infusing historical portraits with in-person performance. These flickering visions of influential works are not solely placeholders, but demonstrate a referential place within the narrative, turning points which foreshadow coming moments within the piece.
While a near full performance of The Glass Slipper slides itself into the secondary narrative, the comedic tension which arises as the poor unfortunate Herald serves – quite literally – as the deliverance of bad news. Justin Locklear comprises the nervous energy required to fling performers back and forth, maintaining a momentum and pang of conflict as the Herald battles with the news trickling into the theatre and maintaining the performance regardless of peasant outcries, smouldering cities, and an assassin…
An assassin like no other, Chet Monday may be rather shocking at his murdering tendencies, but makes up for it with a delicacy in movement and a charm projecting across the screen. Usually, these sorts are the last we would want to see in a dark alley on a lonely night, we’ll make an exception this time. His choreographed synchronicity with Johnston brings an additional element of humour as the two engage in a tango de la Muerte, one blissfully unaware of the other intentions.
To the melodies of dance, Cody Ross’s sound design features musical accomplishments from Becki Howard and Miguel Cantu, and as equally as performance plays a role, musical and movement are equally important. Anastasia Muñoz, Jennifer Vosters and Alicia Rice’s Countess, Duchess and Princess are Marie Antoinette’s closing folly, her tight-knit friends who swither back and forth between saving themselves, preserving the show or maintaining the Queen’s illusion. The trio leads much of the performance, Rice’s acid-tongued vigour a delightful break in the otherwise comedic nature.
Now, don’t feel that the wool is tossed over the audience’s eyes in the Miles Sister’s perceptions of the infamous women who cried for the people to (fictitiously) “eat cake”. The preposterous myths and stereotypes of Marie Antoinette may be leaned into, but it’s for a satirical purpose, a hyper-realised state to acknowledge the historical inaccuracies and then subvert this within Johnston’s performance.
Elements of the young Austrian girl who would become the last Queen of France are hinted, within the manner Johnston holds herself – dainty yet understanding of her role. Forthcoming, yet intimate, Johnston channels a degree of decorum into the struggling Queen, that upon the realisation of the extent of the revolution, begins to strip away the naïve façade for the desperation of survival and eventual acceptance.
Visually, the structure presents itself as a thrusting theatre. Jun Kang’s cinematic direction of the camera enables viewers to move between the foreground and side-stages with ease, transitioning from the blinding lustre of the stage and the colder, hushed worries of the backstage where secrets unearth below the dampening light. For a piece to look this spectacular in the medium of digital theatre, the expectations of an in-person staging are tantalising, Courtney Miles’ visual dynamic of design communicated exceptionally in the pop-up book’s styling of Erik and Aaron Glissmann’s set construction.
Pilfering the pockets of the bourgeoisie, The Miles Sisters built their production from the grassroots of Texas, painting murals as a principal measure to finance the show. Launching itself across the waters into Europe, The Little Glass Slipper as Performed by the Queen of France and her Friends serves as an eager reminder of the eccentricities of digital theatre and its ability to forge connections otherwise underutilised. A glorification of haute couture with ripples of contemporary anxieties, The Miles Sister’s draw humanity out of the fable and suture it from the cinders of history.
Available to few on demand until August 30th – tickets are free and can be purchased here.
For further information surrounding The Little Glass Slipper and future viewings, please visit their website here.