She was a "mediawhore" for Adelaide Fringe, and now for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Isabella Valette will be a Princess, with a twist of course. Directed by Fiona Scott-Norman, Princesstuous explores a common theme running throughout the villains of fairy-tales. Snow White had one, The Little Mermaid had one and Cinderella had one too; an older, angry woman trying to hold her down.
"A friend and I were talking about the Disney films we’d grown up on and identified a theme of older women as arch-villains, who were always jealous of the young, beautiful princesses," explains Valette. "That got us thinking about competition among women, the female fear of ageing, Nietzsche's philosophy on slave culture and the kind of qualities that are highlighted around princess culture as being a positive. A lot of the villains were powerful, talented women who were victims of their beauty/youth-obsessed worlds. I have also been inspired by the essay ‘Royal Bodies’, looking at the ‘princess effect’ in real life, and our relationship to royal women.”
While there is still a long way until the representation of women and their relationships with other women begin to be honestly explored, Valette feels progress is being made. "I think a lot of modern Disney and Pixar films, like most other Hollywood blockbuster films, are becoming far more aware of trying to create stronger female characters. Frozen is the obvious example, so is Mad Max and Star Wars," she says. "It would still be nice to have anti-heroes, flawed women, not overtly masculine or feminine protagonists. I think sometimes we are so en-cultured to seeing female characters as being either good or evil, and not so much grey territory. I also liked that in Mad Max, Charlize Theron’s character challenged the preconception of having to be beautiful and sexy. She had her own thing going on and she wasn’t dressed to the tits in tight spandex or a princess dress."
Valette, who is also a member of two of Melbourne's premiere impro groups, Impromptunes and The Big HOO-HAA!, has gone from performing in gay musical Butch Masters for Midsumma, to Mediawhore in Perth and Adelaide (also directed by Scott-Norman), and will now be debuting Princesstuous in Melbourne. Fortunately the transition between the three characters has been a smooth process. "They all have their own vibe so it's not hard to differentiate between them. Pussy in Butch Masters was a super cutesy, good, smart girl with a secret. April Fools in Mediawhore is a fame hungry D-list reality TV star and social media narcissist. Sometimes when I’m being her, I have to give myself more permission to be mean to people so they can truly indulge in laughing at her and hating her," explains Valette.
"Which is weird, because it actually comes back to that ‘likeable’ female lead. April is overtly ambitious, selfish, rude, oblivious and self -assured, and some people hate her or are seriously confronted. It’s hard to experience not being liked sometimes. We all spend so much time putting our best foot forward, reading the situation subconsciously and responding accordingly, which is the ‘princess’ syndrome I want to talk about in Princesstuous! The issues are relevant to men and women; the idea of perfection, the fear of ageing, and the ‘good girl/good boy’ problem.”
There are a number of moments from Princesstuous that Valette is quite eager to perform on stage, including a beat poem and dressing up in a Disney dress. "DAMN ENCULTURATION! I know it but can’t escape it! But people can also expect to see me performing character excerpts, stand up, rapping, performing reworked songs, original songs and some jazz beats and looping. I am hoping, like I try to do with any of my shows in the past, that it will be both funny and thought provoking!"
If you had to name your child after a vegetable what would it be?
Watercress for a girl, Fiddlehead for a boy (yes, that exists, I just wiki’d names of vegetables. My son wouldn’t hate me at all).
Which reality TV show would you most like to appear/compete on?
The sequel to Farmer Wants a Wife, Farmer Would Prefer a Hand-Job. (That’s the show that April Fools wins in Mediawhore.)
The most irritating habit I have is not admitting my bad habits.
What's a song that sums up your life?
The Grease megamix.
During the MICF, I really really really want to put on a show that touches people. Oh, and get drunk at the Hifi bar.
Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Season: 5 - 10 April | Tues - Sun 5.30pm,
Length: 60 minutes
Tickets: $32 Full | $28 Conc | $25 Tightarse Tuesday
Bookings: MICF website