Miserable Cinderellas

‘There is a castle on a cloud,
I like to go there in my sleep,
Aren’t any floors for me to sweep,
Not in my castle on a cloud.’

I saw two productions over half term. The Burton Operatic Society did a production of Cinderella at a local school. (I have discussed a production in a previous blog: https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/good-vs-evil/) I also saw Les Miserables (finally!) at  the cinema. Both productions were fantastic but naturally they are every different in terms of context and plot. But in this case, they are both musicals and me being me, I wanted to draw some comparisons from the characters. (Call me lazy if you like for not writing two separate reviews!)

I must confess that I didn’t really know the story of Les Mis. before I went. I know, I know, English graduate who has not read it or seen a version of it. Reasons, or excuses being, well for starters the book is reallllly long! I have since downloaded it to my Nook and it is a worryingly long 4000 pages! (You may not see so many blogs lately ūüėČ ) Also, I just never saw a production through reasons such as money, opportunity and I never particularly studied it. It was worth the wait though!

I loved the film of Les Mis. and recommend anyone who has not seen it, to go. Or wait for the DVD ūüėČ It was a brilliant portrayal of Paris after the French Revolution. It focuses on the poor – or asles miserables’ can be translated as ‘the poor ones,’ ‘the miserables,’ or ‘the victims.’ Then there is the juicy part of the plot of the June Rebellion also known as The Paris Uprising of 1832. This was good viewing and really gave a depiction of this battle between the rich and the poor man. I don’t want to go too much into the story because that isn’t the purpose of this blog. But just a few more thoughts of mine about the latest film version: the singing was good overall. I was well aware it was a musical and was fine with the characters singing when there was a vital part to the plot, when they had to sing their own thoughts or sing as a group¬† – fine. I wasn’t so sure about them ‘singing’ conversations to each other. That was a bit odd! I know that that is the case with all productions of Les Miserables but it just seemed a little odd to me. Russel Crowe singing seriously was even odder – he was the only one that I cringed in my seat a little when he let the notes escape his mouth. My other main point that comes to mind, is the children. They were fantastic little actors and really did the characters justice. Brilliant.

Cinderella I would think we all know a little about. It was a great production by Burton Operatics and an old story with a new twist, yet it still kept the original magic. I laughed out loud when the mice came out though Рas they were played by children, they were nearly as big as Cinders herself! The actress playing Cinderella was amazing and had that inner happiness to her that only resurfaced when she was with the mice, or day dreaming or when she meets the prince. She played the miserable and slave side to the character equally as well. (The other actors and everyone involved did a fantastic job too Рto risk a shout out!)

I started to¬†see the¬†old fairy tale in¬†a new light though last week. Possible because it was the first time I had seen it as an adult. It really is about a poor orphan girl, treated badly because of the times and bad luck of being left with an awful family. We are talking 17th century when this first was written, reflecting the role of women at the time. If women had no family or husband then they were worth nothing really. It isn’t until she meets her Prince Charming that her life becomes livable. The feminist in me, sobs at this.

This is what got me thinking when I saw Les Mis. Cosette is a lot like Cinderella. Think about it. They are both;

  • orphans and are left in terrible circumstances because of this.
  • slave like characters who like to dream and hope. The song at the top is from Les Mis. and sung by Cosette but it also reminded me of Cinderella.
  • young and beautiful
  • women in society who are not able to help themselves
  • (in the end) married to their heart’s desire who happen to rescue them from their misfortune. (I will admit Cosette¬†was already saved early on by Jean Valjean – but again saved by a man)

So whether fairy tales or historical dramas, women were still depicted and were indeed treated in the same, awful way years ago. In terms of fairy tales, I do sometimes think why didn’t Cinderella (or Snow White, or any other) put the broom down, go out get a job, fend for herself and forget about men? But as Les Mis. shows, it wasn’t as simple as that indeed in France or England or anywhere. I was horrified by Cosette’s¬†Mum in the film (played by Ann Hathaway) and how she had to have her head shaved to sell her hair and have her teeth pulled out for money. Definitely¬†showing the hardships of the time. Poor women then had to resort to prostitution if they weren’t lucky to get rescued by the Jean Valjeans¬†or the Prince Charmings of the world.

I suppose, though, the Valjean¬†character does show us just how hard it was for men too. He wouldn’t have been able to turn his life around (well firstly if he didn’t steal a lot of silver!) if he hadn’t the run and under cover, carving and scraping a life for himself along the way. But being a hero of a story, he still managed to save Cosette on the way also. Like fairy tales, there is some sort of happy ending.

So how many Miserable Cinderellas¬†are out there today? Women that have nowhere to turn or are so desperate that they turn to a horrible way of life. Because, unlike fairy takes, there isn’t always a happy ending in life. ūüė¶

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Men and Women are merely players….

‘All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,’

I could ask a really deep, philosophical question like; why are we here? Still think about it by all means, but what I really want to ask is how and why we do things whilst we are here. I think Shakespeare had it right. All the world is a stage and we are all players¬†or actors on it. Take away the fact that people do act as¬†a living or for a job and just consider the ordinary, unscripted man/woman for a moment. We are here from the day of birth, or as Shakespeare calls it our ‘entrance’ and we do not leave until our end has come and we ‘exit’ from the stage. The world as a stage is a great metaphor I think. We all act from cot to coffin. Every day.

On a daily basis, we smile at certain people or scowl at others (not openly if you are of the polite kind ūüėČ ). We are acting. We are choosing to be a certain way with certain people. We are consciously thinking how to be. Our speech is a little different though and as I did¬†my graduate degree on spoken language, I know that it is worlds (or stages) apart from a script. We naturally pause, we stutter, we splutter, we repeat things and sometimes we just say the completely wrong thing. In a script for a play or programme, none of that happens unless it has been included purposely for an effect. I have been thinking recently, as I decided on the topic for this blog, that more of this spontaneity¬†should occur in soap operas and dramas. They are supposed to reflect ‘real life’, even if it is a more dramatic¬†and¬† exciting version of it. I think we should see, therefore, someone starting to walk to the shop mumbling to themself, then rapidly turning around because they left the oven on. We should see people shuffle on past a neighbour half saying hi and half avoiding eye contact because they aren’t in the mood to talk. We should see people stuttering when they speak because they can’t get their words out. Or saying the complete wrong thing out of social awkwardness. Obviously now, I am talking about actors on earth acting as another character and this thought process can get a little crazy. But I just mean, television programmes would do well to add a little more ‘human’ to their characters¬†because even with our human mistakes and characteristics, we are still acting all the time.

We put on a ‘brave’ face when we need to face something we do not want to do. We put on a ‘serious’ face when someone is telling us a really boring, long-winded¬†story and all we want to do is laugh. And I tell you something for free, I put on a ‘happy’ face at work all day, everyday. That doesn’t mean I am faking being happy because I love my job. But working with children normally means you have to exaggerate your feelings of happiness, confidence and positivity – and definitely patience ūüėČ because you may not be feeling those things one day but you have to be them to do your job well. So I play the part.

So Shakespeare was also right by saying ‘His acts being seven ages.’ Meaning, man and woman go through the seven stages of life and obviously acting differently through each one i.e. infancy, teenage years, adult hood. But I think, we also have many, many different¬†roles to play in all stages of our life. I’ve¬†mentioned a job role – but what about yourself outside of work? For example, I¬†am a daughter. A sister. A grand-daughter. A girl friend. A friend. A niece. A cousin. There are seven more roles through life for you. And I act differently for each one. Not because I prefer certain family members to others – even though, naturally strength of relationship does also affect how we act – but I am supposed to act differently with my sister then I am with my boyfriend! We all know how to change how we are in a suitable way.

So who is the director of the play of life? Religious ones of you will say God.¬†Definitly¬†one option. Maybe fate is an option too. We are all meant to act certain ways at certain times for our lives to sketch itself out. Maybe there is a puppet master controlling our every move for giggles and sinister pleasure. Have you ever watched The Truman Show? We studied it at school and I remember¬†not particularly liking it. Yet, I can’t shake the idea that someone could be watching us at every given moment. Not in a Big Brother kind of way but, like on the film,¬†where the¬†world is watching your everyday life, like¬†a soap opera. And all your family and friends are ‘actors’ and your behaviour¬†is being observed and analysed. I’ve always toyed with this idea and think what people would make of watching me all day. Not that I do anything particularly fascinating you know, but it makes me conscious of my moves! And¬†if you think about it, you would think that when we are alone we are not acting and that is the one time that we are 100%, truly ourselves. But even then are we acting? I am sitting here now. Alone. I am writing this, but I am acting as a professional, writer who is rushing to get an article out on deadline. Our imaginations and thoughts mean we are acting all the time.

So, maybe the only time we don’t act is in our sleep. But even then we dream and play a part, usually as the leading role or as a part that our unconsious wants us to play on the real stage of life. We need to listen to our hearts and minds and act in the best way possible. Do not wait in the¬†wings or become part of the audience of your life. Play the leading role and make the most of it before your final exit ūüôā

*Curtain Closes*

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