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Christina Rossetti's 'Goblin Market'
Published on Tuesday, 10 May 2011

4 stars

Friends' Meeting House (venue website)
8 May, 7:00pm-8:30pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 Parental Guidance. Under-17's must be accompanied by an adult.
 World Premiere.

Confession time: I don't tend to spend a lot of time looking at the classical section of the Fringe Programme... but on a quick scan through, this event caught my eye. I'm a big fan of Christina's Rossetti's 400-line poem, about the idyllic life of two sisters which is disturbed by the endless taunts of goblin men in the woods offering their almost irresistible fruit for sale. When sister Laura succumbs, Lizzie plays questing hero to save her, plunging into a dark world of temptation and threat.

The poem is a real Victorian curio - it's part cautionary tale, part fairy story, and squelching with so much racy subtext that a performance of it as recently as 2007 had to be heavily edited. This piece was the world premiere of the unedited version of that censored show, with the harp accompaniment and setting that was created for it.

The playful harp music, both beautiful and eerie, highlights perfectly the mood of this creepy tale; and the bright, assured and highly-physical performance from the poem's reader keeps the text lively and alive for the whole of its epic length. But despite the effervescent performances, it's the poem that plays the starring role, with its ancient-seeming yet thoroughly modern narrative about the price of pleasure.

This piece does this brilliant work justice, balancing the right amount of reverence for the original text with tongue-in-cheek touches like the bar offering goblin juice and fairy fruits. Altogether, it creates a wonderful presentation of a cult piece of literary genius. And goblin juice, I can testify, is very nice indeed.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2011.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.