Fairy tales and folk stories are often thought of as being aimed at children: when I was younger I was generally allowed to read Hans Christian Andersen but had to borrow my older cousin’s Brothers Grimm collection, as that was thought to be a step too far.
However I sensed the appeal to adults which has refined over time with the work of Angela Carter and others. These are subversive stories, full of complex tropes and techniques, unpleasant characters and situations, and lashings of sex and violence.
Creation Theatre’s latest digital show is based around the works of the Brothers Grimm, and is entitled Grimm Tales for Fragile Times & Broken People.
In presenting a range of these tales as horror pieces, to be experienced by candlelight, by those thirteen and upwards, they are given some contemporary relevance to the current period of pandemic uncertaincy.
Each performer is filmed seperately in a small area of a creepy set. Their make-up suggests the clown or the mime, with exaggerated lips and eyes, and generally dark appearance.
The tales themselves are a mixture of the well-known (Hansel and Gretel, Rumplestiltskin) and the less-familiar (The Moon, Godfather Death). Opening with the chilling story of The Juniper Tree, the tales begin to weave together, overlap, and find some common ground.
This is traditional storytelling of the type you have around a fire in winter, with a sense of one-upmanship and how horrible the plot can get. Quite often women and children come off worse, being forced into exile, marriage, or peril.
The girl Marlinka in The Juniper Tree, Gretel, the miller’s daughter set to spin gold in Rumplestiltskin, the youngest child in The Elves and the Shoemaker, and more, often have to overcome something unpleasant or dangerous.
Previous shows from Creation have been streamed live, but this is delivered in edited monologues, mixed together to form a whole which is sometimes a little discordant.
The tone of the tales varies – Godfather Death is very serious and more in the traditional horror vein; Rumplestiltskin plays with a more teasing tone using a puppet. Some moments are especially powerful, such as the climax of Hansel and Gretel.
In Gari Jones’s production, there is not much action, and the audience interaction seen in some previous productions is lacking. At an hour’s length, I felt the show moved at a leisurely pace, and inevitably some of the stories work better than others in playing to the grotesque.
The cast (Kofi Dennis, Dharmesh Patel, Natasha Rickman, Graeme Rose, Giles Stoakley, and Annabelle Terry) work well with the material and their previous experience on Zoom and with digital theatre shows.
Each Creation Theatre show pushes what is possible through digital theatre just a little bit more, but I was a little disappointed that this was neither live nor as technically innovative as previous pieces. However the toy theatre setting works very well.
The stories, of course, stand on their own terms, but little has changed from the original plots and the fragmentary nature of the way they are presented can be a little confusing.
Grimm Tales … is streaming until the 13 March. You can book here (£20 per device).
LouReviews received complimentary access to review Grimm Tales.