Grimm Tales – an Evening of Escapism:
As a child I was an avid reader. Hiding under the blankets with a torch of course, we had a set bed-time and lights-out half an hour later. One of my earliest memories was my grandma giving me some of my mother’s story books. Keen on painting and drawing, mum had carefully coloured in all the Arthur Rackham engravings of her copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Despite my irritation that she hadn’t even left ONE for me to do myself, I can remember reading the stories over and over again. Some were quite macabre and even well known stories had a far higher level of undiluted horror than modern versions, with cannibalism, necrophilia and torture the norm. It doesn’t seem to have done me too much harm though.
Philip Pullman is something of a maverick; a campaigner and author of a number of well known books for children including the famous trilogy ‘His Dark Materials’. More recently he worked with Penguin Classics to curate a collection of 50 of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. It is a selection of those stories, re-written by Pullman from the originals, that form the basis of this production. Adapted for the stage by Philip Wilson, Grimm Tales is the second selection of stories – the original production was staged in rooms under Shoreditch Town Hall. Here, the Bargehouse, a four storey warehouse just behind OXO tower, provides the settings for six new stories.
Every room, every stairwell and every space has been carefully curated to draw the audience into the production. You’ll find ghostly wedding dresses, carefully displayed in the stairwells, bare light bulbs, vintage children’s toys and assorted military paraphernalia. There are a couple of well camouflaged bars with food (boar pie anyone?) and drinks for sale. And, a real sense of anticipation as you wait for the show to begin.
The audience are directed through the rooms by actors and ushers, arriving in a new ‘world’ every half hour or so. It’s seamless and well planned without being in any way obtrusive. The actors stay in character, setting up each story carefully. It is captivating and engaging. By the end of the production the stylised dialogue seems completely natural. For me, each story was memorable in its own way; Faithful Johannes for the costumes and particularly macabre (yet happy) ending, Hansel and Gretel for the acting, the Three Little Men in the Wood for the wonderful puppets. I suspect though, that this is the kind of event where everyone will find something different to love.
Before and after the show and during the interval you can explore the rooms further and discover hints at more stories.
It was a fun, quirky and compelling evening. I arrived rather tired, thinking that I might escape in the interval, but after the first three stories I wanted more. And, if there’s a third production with another set of tales, I’ll be back.
The production notes state this is suitable for everyone over the age of eight. I went to an evening performance with no kids around but would have been interested to see how this fantastical world worked through a child’s eyes. There are afternoon and evening productions at the weekends and during holiday periods, with two evening productions only during term time weekdays. The show has just been extended and now runs until 11th April 2015
Adults: From £45
Children under 16: £20
Family Ticket (2 Adults and 2 Children): £125