High on production value and high on the enjoyment stakes Grimm Tales takes you by the jugular from the very second you walk in. From every angle austere Victorian portraits stare hauntingly at you while a dull hum vibrates throughout the building. Instantly a feeling of suspense grabs you as you wander through the maze of floors and rooms.
Played out across several storeys, the audience is transported through fantasy landscapes with the dust barely settling before the cast whips you up and away for the next adventure. Each adaptation is cleverly retold using the mediums of narration, acting, puppetry and good old fashioned props. Nothing is wasted and even the barest of props become giant ginger bread houses in the minds of the observers.
The acting is superb, walking from room to room you instantly inhabit each new world becoming part of the furniture as the actors engage and goad you in to submission before the story unfolds. Most notably in ‘The Frog King’ with nothing but humming and inarticulate words and sounds, the actors set the mood of the piece impeccably, each as watchable as the next. Physicality and movement seem bigger than the text in this re-imagining, especially for actor James Byng who played the cursed (Frog) King, using physicality as his principle weapon to convey his metamorphosis from human to frog – a spellbinding performance.
Most of the adaptations are the lesser known tales from the Brothers Grimm so bias doesn’t get in the way of what you think you should expect to see but even when confronted with ye old faithful ‘Hansel & Gretel,’ your mind doesn’t whirl around the familiarity of the story because there are too many new and interesting things to explore in the dynamics of its retelling.
Like any good immersive experience, the building itself becomes part of the story, disorientating at times you wander through rooms retracing your steps while the production team work to change the set by just a margin that you need a moment to get your bearings. At the end you are encouraged to delve in deeper with an invite to stay and explore. The building at this point comes alive with curiosities hidden for you to discover but it isn’t just the contrived that is interesting, the Bargehouse, Oxo Tower is about as old as the tales themselves and the walls and ceilings have their own stories to tell if you bother to look.
In summary, if you are looking for something different, then book now, you’re guaranteed to be transported in to another world several times over. The set and sound design is brilliantly executed and the retelling of the stories is first class. It’s not a high octane, all thrills kind of ride but it offers so much on many levels you won’t be disappointed. As for the fear factor you’ll be fine, while they create suspense, it’s not a horror show, it’s a fantastic immersive theatre concept that really delivers.
Review by Stephanie Caiger-Watson
GRIMM TALES FOR YOUNG AND OLD
An Immersive Fairytale adapted and Directed by Philip Wilson
Adapted and directed by Philip Wilson, this theatrical reimagining has maintained the grittiness of the Brothers Grimm and this production exposes the original twisted nature of the fairy tale in six stories. These tales will be told by a cast of sixteen storytellers with live music under the glow of 1,500 light bulbs, surrounded by a masterfully designed set that includes 160 tea chests, 200 apple crates, 500 picture frames, 800 brass objects and over 6,000 square ft of netting.
Cast: Kate Adler, Sabina Arthur, James Byng, Paul Clerkin, Morag Cross, Amanda Gordon, Leda Hodgson, Richard Mark, Nessa Matthews, Anthony Ofoegbu, Maria Omakinwa, Joel Robinson, Megan Salter, John Seaward, Johnson Willis and Robert Willoughby.
Philip Wilson – Adaptor & Director
Valerie Coward – Producer
Catherine Botibol – Executive Producer
Tom Rogers – Set & Costume Designer
Richard Hammarton – Composer & Sound Designer
Howard Hudson – Lighting Designer
Sarah Butcher – Assistant Director
Kay Magson – Casting Director
Alison Duddle – Puppets designed by Alison and Horse & Bamboo.
Darren Lang – Magic Consultant
Saturday 24th January 2015