What a Grimm Tale!

With loose and dishevelled hair, streaks of cat-like make-up and bulging veins, the chorus prowls across the stage, furiously chanting lines adapted from fairy tales. The effect is nothing short of menacing. Mere seconds into the show, I find myself liking it already.

The production more than fulfils its aim of ‘reinstating the didactic and terrifying nature of the original Grimm tales’.

What a Grimm Tale! uses material from three well-known fairy tales to explore the social and emotional problems faced by young people today. The young protagonists are emotionally scarred and suffer from mental conditions ranging from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) to DID (dissociative identity disorder). The atmosphere is dark from beginning to end, and occasionally an anguished scream pierces through the gloom.

With one or two exceptions – and these might simply be due to first-day jitters – the cast delivers a convincing and robust performance. Physical theatre is used effectively to heighten the sinister aspects of the play, for instance when chorus members swirl rapaciously around hapless characters.

While some neat analogies are made between fairy tales and problems faced by young people today, notably the reference to ‘magic beans’ (recreational drugs), the many cursory references to the Grimm tales do not always enrich our understanding of the play. Alice, attacked by online predator ‘Dan’ in the woods, seems more like a battered Red Riding Hood than an Alice in Wonderland. And Simon, with the somewhat misleading surname Wolf, hears strange voices in his head. The result is a deafening echo-chamber of allusions that leaves the audience feeling rather disoriented. But of course, this could be the whole idea.

The production more than fulfils its aim of ‘reinstating the didactic and terrifying nature of the original Grimm tales’. But while the premise of the play is fascinating – and well-justified, given how truly unsettling many of the Grimm tales are – being wholly didactic or terrifying does not always work. The show is recommended for children aged 14 and above, although one can’t help but wonder how well today’s generation of media-savvy teenagers would respond to the didacticism.

The show grapples – perhaps with more than necessary relish – with the dark depths of the human psyche rather than couching them in metaphors. Rather than tackle grim truths with plain honesty, it seems to want to be excessively disturbing and terrifying for its own sake, and I’m not too sure what this achieves.

More bleak than your usual cautionary tale, What a Grimm Tale! draws us into the dark, haunted forest of social disorders – and then leaves us there. Call me a deluded optimist, but I might not be the only one who wishes it was just a bit more hopeful.

Reviews by Toh Wen Li

Appletree Writers at The Whole Works

Spoken Word Sundays: Women Speaking Their World

★★★
Paradise in Augustines

The Cagebirds

★★★
Spotlites

For the Love of Chocolate

★★★★
Sweet Grassmarket

Subsist

★★★★
theSpace @ Surgeons Hall

Mrs Dalloway

★★★★
Gilded Balloon

The Sea Child

★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Influenced by the Brothers Grimm, we have devised a piece of theatre with the sole purpose of reinstating the didactic and terrifying nature within the original collection of fables. Using three well-known tales we have a tackled the negative impact that the internet and social media can have on our young children, whilst also looking at the ever-growing concerns for emotional well-being. Our play focuses on the dark nature of the human condition, and what motivates and drives us within a fast-paced and pressured society.

Most Popular See More

Everybody's Talking About Jamie

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Witness for the Prosecution

From £19.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Life of Pi

From £19.00

More Info

Find Tickets

SIX

From £29.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Pretty Woman: The Musical

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets