13th Sept 2016
Grimm Tales is, as you might expect, a selection of stories from the Brothers Grimm. Fairy tales - tales of wicked witches, enchanted princes, evil stepmothers, of strange creatures, and lessons to be learned.
But these are not the sanitised stories we might have heard today. These short plays hark back to the original stories from the Brothers Grimm, so they are darker and more sinister, and in the case of "The Mouse, The Bird and The Sausage" quite brutal! The wicked characters are truly wicked, selfish and cruel. Even the good characters are not all wholly good, some are weak and easily led, though some do have true innocence and purity and it is these who triumph.
Each story has a narrator who also takes up one or two character roles within tale. Each one has a distinct "narrator's voice" so it is easy to tell when they move from character to narrator. And the stories are told through a mix of narration and dramatic enactment.
There is no scenery. The only prop on stage is a plain wood block that serves as seat, bed, headstone. Scenes are created by the actors who stand to represent trees in the forest, or donne a costume to symbolise a change of scene. Very few props are used - some sticks for firewood, a stool, a handful of dust or pebbles, a mask and a sack of straw...Actors and audience must use their skill and imagination to envision the scenes.
Performed in the round with the audience on stage, it is a very intimate setting. The audience are close to the action and the narrator speaks directly to them - inviting them into the story as any storyteller would.
There is clever use of costumes and puppets to denote the different characters - especially where the narrator is doubling up as one or more characters. The fact that each tale has a different narrator's voice also works very well. And there are some grood performances from the young cast - notably Phoebe De'Ath as Gretel, Henry Freyne, as Hansel and Dummling, and Rheanne Boothroyd as the steadfast youngest daughter in the Lady and the Lion. The senior members Ian Willis, Eileen Davidson, Andrew De'Ath, and Karen Elliot do sterling work keeping the tales and the action moving, playing narrators and various wives, husbands witches and charming princes!
This is a charming play by the People's Youth Theatre. It covers 8 tales from the Brothers Grimm in just over an hour and so each one is quite a compact telling. While it may not have quite the finesse of previous productions, it is an imaginative, clever and carefully thought out solution to the challenge posed by the current building works for producing a studio play without a studio.
Grimm Tales runs until Sat 17th Sept and is great viewing as the nights begin to draw in.