If you think that the Creation Theatre’s latest offering is something to cheer you up in these ‘fragile times’ then think again. Grimm Tales... by this group of five actors is a seriously dark and eerie production of five of the hundreds of fairy tales the Grimm Brothers collected from around the country and wrote down for posterity.
The Brothers Grimm were born into a wealthy family but the early death of their father plunged them into poverty and, although schooling and university had been paid for, they were always held back by their low status in society and by their obligations to provide for their mother and siblings. This gave them a deep understanding of what it meant to be poor. When they were able, they travelled the country writing down the stories they were told. There was much talk at the time (as there is now) as to how suitable some of the stories were for children – were they warning tales or just too frightening? In fact, Creation Theatre suggest a minimum age of 12 for this production which is very wise.
Of the five tales presented by Creation Theatre, Hansel and Gretel and Rumpelstiltskin are the best known; Godfather Death, The Juniper Tree and The Moon are perhaps less familiar. Creation have a way of weaving these stories together: each actor takes a story and tells it piecemeal, broken as the title suggests. It takes some getting used to, but you acclimatise gradually to the actors and their stories - this is made easier by the mixing in of the two very familiar stories.
The five actors are all superb in their very different ways: the two women, Natasha Rickman and Annabelle Terry, who present Hansel and Gretel and Rumpelstiltskin, are confined in tiny rooms or boxes, which gives their stories a claustrophobic feel. Rumpelstiltskin is also told in modern language which jars – deliberately. The men, Kofi Dennis, Dharmesh Patel and Graeme Rose, move more freely but where are they? Nothing is clear, nowhere feels permanent; the faces are eerily lit, teeth blacked out. You are absolutely captivated, and horrified, by them. There are almost no props - a doll, a paper bird, a cut-out juniper tree, a silhouette moon– and no stage: the actors have to do everything with their faces and their voices which they do wonderfully. Giles Stoakley has made an amazing job of producing something spectacular out of almost nothing.
The audience is advised to turn the lights off and light a candle to put them in the right mood, which many seemed to do. I question why Creation chose to make Hansel and Gretel and Rumpelstiltskin even darker than the stories already are: the original Grimm’s tales do at least have a happy ending. Nevertheless, judging by the comments in the chat box at the end, the performance was hugely enjoyed by those attending.
This show was a preview: the non-preview version will be streamed between 24th Feb and 13th March.