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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!




Grimm productions presents

Grimm Tales for Young and Old

An Immersive Fairytale


by Philip Pullman





Adapted and Directed by Philip Wilson

Set & Costume designer - Tom Rogers

Lighting Designer - Howard Hudson

Composer and sound designer - Richard Hammarton


Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf


November 21 2014 – February 15 2015


Now Booking through April 11, 2015


The Bargehouse at Oxo Tower Wharf is gloriously dilapidated; it represents urban decay at its most bleakly splendid. It’s sinister and murky and somewhat brutal, and so provides the perfect location for Philip Wilson’s adaptation of Philip Pullman’s take on six tales by the Brothers Grimm. Grimm tales teem with deep, dark forests. The tales in this production are no exception; Hansel and Gretel get lost in one, The Frog King is found in another and evil stepmothers appear to think they’re the best place to dispose of surplus children. It’s telling of the accomplishment of this production that the most urban location imaginable is successfully transformed into forest after forest, full of weird, wonderful and above all suspenseful adventures.

The evening starts in one of two bars at opposite sides of the building and two tours of the fairytales run simultaneously. The characters in each space come to life from statuesque forms in flickering lights once the wandering audience are settled. Lighting effects by Howard Hudson create an enveloping dream-world where the action might be imagined or witnessed or both.

Props are inventive and sweet, strawberries, apples and pears are represented by spools of thread and balls of wool, green polythene gloves become frogs and an old bath is as convincing a well as one could hope to find. In the story of The Three Little Men in the Woods the men of the title are represented by puppets, sensitive to manners and endowed with the gift of giving, they are a wonder to behold as they dish out behaviour-dependant tricks or treats. The cannibalistic witch of perhaps the most familiar tale in the set, Hansel and Gretel is as sour and dreadful as one might imagine and her comeuppance in her own equipment is a most welcome development.

In Wilson’s adaptation of these dark tales he has managed to retain the sinister, more Grimm elements of the stories whilst also entertaining with punchy prose, gimmicky tricks and almost consistent cadence. The tales are spun out by the various characters that all double up as competent narrators. This works particularly well in Thousandfurs, where the tale is drawn down a long warehouse and voices from all over the room keep heads turning and the curious story spinning.

Costumes are exquisite. The three dresses which Thousandfurs dons when trying to woo her prince are structurally fantastic. The Frog King in his amphibious format is impossibly well rendered as a throbbing gloved hand. The attire worn by the hand’s owner is wonderfully adaptable once the princess’ temper forces a change. The two little girls in The Three Little Men in the Woods are dressed to suit their personalities in the way Quentin Blake might have illustrated Roald Dahl’s heroes and villains. The wicked stepmother is as ostentatiously repulsive and false as she is deep down. An intriguing tale of a hopelessly committed aide and friend unfolds in Faithful Johannes. The Goose Girl at the Spring explores a fateful rash decision and its aftermath as well as challenging first impressions and playing with appearances.

Grimm productions recommend the tale for children aged eight years and over and adults alike. There were only two kids in my group the night I attended and they both seemed to enjoy it. The many magic elements appeal to old and young. Some of the intricacies and the darker moments appeal to a more grown-up audience but without excluding little ones. While tickets are rather pricey the evening is quite unforgettable, given the breadth and scope of the set and the endlessly inventive recreation of a warehouse space into a veritable wonderland, bang for your buck is plain to see. After a smaller production of six different stories just last April in Shoreditch, one can only wonder what this highly energetic company have up their sleeves next. Immerse yourself in this strange and marvellous fairyland if you can.
Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf
Bargehouse Street, South Bank, London SE1 9PH
Tickets: Adults: £45, Children under 16: £20, Family Ticket (2 Adults and 2 Children): £125
Students (NUS Card holders) & Groups (10+): £25. Additional booking charges may apply

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