Collaborating with the theatre itself, the physical theatre adepts at Gonzo Moose have kept faith with the traditions of Panto – the bad jokes, cross-dressing and audience participation – but refreshed them using a clever framing device. By having the Grimms themselves participate in their own fairy tales, they’ve set up a world already familiar enough to a family audience that its tropes can be subverted with joy and affection.
What that gets you is a rich, deep and hilarious family theatrical experience that literally bursts off the stage. And yes, for once you can take ‘literally’ literally: as part of a challenging and well-designed family treasure hunt to do before the play and in its interval the whole theatre building, including its backstage offices and corridors, are populated the echoes of fairytales. Our young one refused to leave the theatre until she’d explored all its nooks and crannies for clues!
The tone is, for the most part, well judged. The performers and their co-authors have pulled off Pixar’s trick of entertaining adults and children without awkward switches of register. The Woody Allen impressions may sail over little heads but you’re never too far away from a pratfall and a rickety pun.
In terms of suitability, I’d say that on average it’s fine for age seven and older. There are a couple of moments that might be problematic for more demanding or sensitive children. After a clownish opening, the first scene becomes a little too static and wordy for the more action-oriented, while in the second half there are some dark overtones and gruesome stage effects that may – and in our case did - trouble younger or queasier viewers. But these are short-lived and thoughtfully defused. The memories she took away with her – of tiny Mexican elves, sleepy raccoon tourist guides, miming princes and a stunningly choreographed fist-fight involving a two-headed Rumplestiltskin – had her chuckling the next day as well as in the stalls.