Grimm Tales @ Wakefield Theatre Royal
‘We have a tale to tell, A journey to take you on’ is how this musical story started, and what a journey it was! Grimm Tales consisted of three short stories which have been adapted for the stage by Carol Ann Duffy. The tales in order were ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘The Golden Goose’ and ‘Ashputtel’, each one with a recognizable storyline but with it’s own unique, dark twist.
The ability of the actors was incredible and each person had a part which highlighted their strengths, which became clear as the play progressed on. I was amazed at how easily the scene was set, despite the lack of props which meant that the creativity of the actors and directors had to be excellent in order to get the story across using physical theatre. Even characters that weren’t in a main role in a certain scene still had a major role to play in setting it, using both sound and visuals.
‘Hansel and Gretel’, the first story in the collection set the standard of the show very high, with an hilarious portrayal of the Step Mother. The opening tale made it clear that this wasn’t your average boring fairytale, but instead had been carefully crafted to fit the target audience with comical facial expressions and slight innuendos. A particular highlight of this story was the use of branches to create a ‘forest’ for Hansel and Gretel to walk through, which really helped to set the scene for the audience.
My favourite tale was the closing one, ‘Ashputtel’. I particularly enjoyed this one as it captured all of my favourite themes of the entire show in one short tale. The acting from the ‘Step Mother’ from ‘Hansel and Gretel’ returned but this time even more extravagant and humorous. This combined with the pantomime like acting of the ‘Step sisters’ who were excellently portrayed by two male actors made for an exceptional, modern take on this classic fairytale. The ballroom scene in this tale had the audience in stitches as the cast put their own unique twist on ballroom dancing and completely defied all expectations by raving and disco dancing whilst the prince searched for a bride!
An example of everyone’s strengths being utilized is the fact that the music is all original and written by one of the actors, Daniel Hardwick. I didn’t know this until after the show as the music was so catchy that I’d just assumed it was pre-written for them. Many cast members played their own instrument such as guitar and violin and everyone got involved in the singing and dancing. The tunes and songs in the play were still stuck in my head even days after the show, so well done to the cast for creating such a memorable show.
All in all, Grimm Tales was fantastic and judging by audience reactions, I wasn’t the only one who thought so. The cast at ‘In On The Act’ became very involved with the audience with many of the scenes containing actors running into the crowd. The final tale had the cast sharing sweets with the audience in a way which was cleverly incorporated into the storyline. Little details like this help to take away the ‘stuffiness’ which many young people associate with going to the theatre and allows them to realize that it is in fact enjoyable and entertaining for all ages. I’m glad I ‘pinned back my lugholes’ because Grimm Tales certainly was a narrative treat!