I’m Hans Christian Andersen is the tongue-in-cheek title of the show which Rachel Rose Reid brings to the Concert Hall, Brighton Dome on Saturday, May 12 at 6.30pm for the Brighton Festival.
A bittersweet kaleidoscope of imperfect love and forgotten fairy tales, the show weaves between the stories we read, the ones we tell and the ones we never finish, to rediscover Hans Christian Andersen for our time.
“The title is just taking the mickey out of that Danny Kaye song,” Rachel says. But there is more to it than that. As Rachel says, the Victorian translators just used what they wanted from Hans Christian Andersen in order to make him appear a children’s writer.
“But actually, the stories have a lot of adult experiences in them, particularly his experiences of love. I heard on the radio a serialisation of the biography of Hans Christian Andersen, and the thing that caught my attention was that he wrote The Little Mermaid whilst he was staying on an island to avoid the wedding of the man he loved. There are lots of ways that he didn’t fit into the society he was living in.
“He was quite an awkward person, but he was so good at understanding society. The stories are such witty comments on society and he could write such incredible stories - but yet he could not manage to negotiate the things he wanted in life. He wrote a lot of the pain and the drama into his fairy tales. There are parts where he took whole chunks of his diary of letters and put them into his stories in the mouths of his characters.”
As for the show, Rachel will be running about three different narratives at any time, stitching them together.
“I also take the mickey out of myself. A lot of fairy stories assume that there are happy endings. If you look at the films and the magazines today, particularly women are expected to find the perfect love. We believe it even more than Anderson’s time ever did. We are sent that narrative all the time, and a lot of people judge themselves because they don’t achieve it.”
Recently featured as one of the Independent’s top UK Storytellers, Rachel’s work includes performances at the Barbican and Tricycle Theatres, Nevada’s Burning Man Festival, Latitude Festival, the London Literary Festival, the Secret Garden Party and Camp Bestival. She has also performed on BBC Radio and will be featured in the upcoming series of Radio 3’s The Verb.