Grimm’s Fairy Tales
White Bear Theatre
Reviewed – 5th April 2018
“they stray from the source material even further than Gretel wanders away from her path through the woods”
Once upon a time, two centuries ago, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm set out to gather folk stories for posterity. Little did they know that the collection of tales they published would become one of the most widely read works in history, capturing the popular imagination around the world for generations. Among the countless interpretations there have been there is a new, inventive theatre company that are adding their own twist in their rather unadventurously titled “Grimm’s Fairy Tales”.
Hansel is kept captive in the wicked witch’s house as she fattens him up. Gretel cannot save him on her own, so she goes in search of a man who can. On her journey through the forest she meets some very oddball individuals, very loosely based on the characters created by the two brothers.
For three nights only, Ha-Hum-Ah Theatre bring this re-imagining of the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales to the White Bear Theatre. Drawing on some of the more obscure stories; such as ‘Cat and Mouse in Partnership’, ‘The Fisherman and his Wife’, ‘The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage’ and ‘The Brave Little Tailor’ among others, they aim to add a contemporary and comedic layer to the stories. In doing so they stray from the source material even further than Gretel wanders away from her path through the woods. It’s a bit of a whirlwind walkabout with too many confusing references that in the end we can’t see the wood for the trees.
The company have great ambition and there are some strong traces of originality evident, but it seems that they have not yet found their audience. The exaggerated performances that border on pantomime seem to be aimed at the CBBC crowd, yet the smattering of expletives thrown into the text come across as a rather weak hook to snare the late-night theatre goer. Though there is no denying the energy of the cast of four who take on the multiple roles. They wittily incorporate the logistical difficulties and the low budget limitations into the action. And there is a real team spirit among the four actors on stage that is vaguely infectious.
The meanderings of Ben Kernow’s script are interspersed with songs by Dan Bottomley. While containing sharp-witted lyrics they are sorely let down by the pre-recorded backing tracks that accompany them. But the addition of music reinforces the suspicion that this show doesn’t quite know what it is yet. Is this a comedy? Is it a musical? Fewer ingredients thrown into the witch’s brew would make for a clearer picture.
There is a very funny, and unexpected, punchline though, but like a shaggy dog story, it is a bit of a trek to get there. Whether that journey is worth it is up to the listener. As the old adage goes; it’s the way you tell ‘em.
Reviewed by Jonathan Evans
Photography by Ben Kernow
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
White Bear Theatre until 7th April