EFR - Reviews of Grim(m) Tales of the Woods

Grim(m) Tales of the Woods

Sat 20th – Sun 28th August 2011

reviews

Rowan Evans

at 22:11 on 20th Aug 2011

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A lot of fake blood and lederhosen, Louna Productions are sometimes at risk of being less unsettling than their shady venue. ‘Grim(m) Tales of the Woods’ is a mixed sack of storytelling in five chapters, cheaply funny at its least sophisticated, mischievously dark at its best.

A frame-narrative relationship between the pair (Anna Lehr and Louisa Thornton) is only partly imagined and not followed through. At the start both joke awkwardly about the company’s name and credentials, while by the end one is scolding the other in German before plugging the next show. Interaction in character is an effective tool, but needs here to be honed to a greater precision before Louna can achieve the mood they’re angling for. Slips into the native language of this ‘German nightmare’ are occult and seductive, but again could be expanded.

I want them to stoke up the horror a bit more, rather than resorting to comic-book grimaces and the Wilhelm Scream. Lights off and some dry-ice and candles might be good, or some musicians to fatten the creepy fifth-based duets. A cramped, contorted stage space doesn’t seem to put them off and some of the attempts at physical theatre are successful, but the effect seems more blueprint than end-product. Plates of body bits, flung meat-cleaved flesh and an erotic consumption of the Wolf by a feral Rotkäppchen are fun, but elsewhere jerky overacting lowers the integrity. Lehr and Thornton are clearly capable of more; I keep thinking ‘slow down!’ as each storyteller gabbles their gruesome punchline. As a result, a lot of potential suspense is lost, and the overriding audience reaction is easy laughs at cartoon death-throes. It’s sometimes hard to follow, and doesn’t quite give full resonance to the dark humour these brilliant stories potentially contain.

In terms of maximizing limited space and equipment, Louna Productions might profit from a few pointers from other contemporary shows. However, if you’re a fan of Roald Dhal and Terry Gilliam, the storytelling is certainly entertaining and well worth the time.

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Annabel James

at 16:18 on 21st Aug 2011

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This splendidly Gothic retelling of the fairytales of the Brothers Grimm could not have been better suited to the cavernous lair that is the Jekyll and Hyde. As audience members watched from the batlike leather wings of the booths, Anna Lehr and Lousia Thornton brought to life seven of the Tales in full pre-Disney splendour, replete with scatological humour, sexuality and violence.

It was a lesson in the art of storytelling: both Lehr and Thornton possessed an excellent vocal range and used pacing and pause to maximum effect. Between the two of them they inhabited the voices of handfuls of characters and the narrator without ever losing clarity. They instilled each tale with a humour reminiscent of Angela Carter’s Bloody Chamber: Little Red Cap smiles knowingly as she lets the wolf try some of her ‘cake’. Above all, they managed to retain a suggested presence of the over-arching storyteller, whose self-conscious weaving of the tales is betrayed in a carefully measured phrase, or a sarcastic smile at a member of the audience.

Their physical expression was equally skilful, with Lehr in particular full of artful poise as she used gesture to differentiate between one tale and the next. The performers’ vibrantly painted faces seemed to change colour under the lights, looking wonderfully bloodstained as they regaled us with a particularly gory detail. They were especially good at expressing the changing objects into which the children transformed in ‘Fundevogel’. At other points, Lehr beautifully evoked the flight of a bird and Thornton became a snapping duck which elicited plenty of laughter from the audience.

I was thoroughly taken aback by how much I enjoyed this show, easily the best thing I have seen in the Free Fringe. Lehr and Thornton took their final bows to thunderous applause, and it was totally deserved.

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