Grimm

Thu 31st July – Sat 16th August 2014

reviews

Catherine Edwards

at 10:11 on 12th Aug 2014

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Despite drawing its material from fairytales, Grimm is a world away from the cosy stories you may remember. Instead, it is an experimental adaptation which delves into the darker side of these tales. Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel are given modern updates, along with lesser known tales such as The Girl With No Hands.

The play opens with confusion – and a bang - as mental patient Aoife (the excellent Aoife Cantrill) wakes up in a mental institution, with no idea of who she is or was. The stage erupts into a chaos of noise, sound and movement, setting the tone for the rest of the play. As an audience, we can't help but share Aoife's urgent need for answers.

The sinister idea of childhood memories being replaced with fairy stories makes for interesting juxtaposition between the jarring scenes in the institution, as Aoife struggles to piece her mind back together, and the fairytales themselves.

Lamorna Ash's script is a highly original adaptation, which is translated excellently onto the stage. Despite the dark and absurdist feel, the story still allows for many moments of comedy. In particular, these are provided by Emma D'Arcy as the witch in Hansel and Gretel, and Nick Finerty as the hapless fairytale father.

However, the entire cast gel together well as an ensemble, with no weak links and certainly no half measures. They perform energetically and vividly, switching between their various roles in the story.

Grimm is highly physical, and the disjointed movements of the cast are almost hypnotic. The whole concept has obviously been meticulously thought through and rehearsed, and lighting and sound are used to great effect. The show is confusing and fragmented but draws you in. Aoife's increasing distress is mirrored in the blurring of boundaries between the real and fairytale worlds. A special mention goes to the hugely effective use of props in some of the most disturbing scenes.

The ending doesn't quite live up to the rest of the story, and doesn't provide much resolution to the chaos. However, this seems to be the whole point, and the strong abilities of the cast and crew prevent any feelings of dissatisfaction; the whole team behind the production deserve praise for the impressive execution of the show.

It's a show that's bound to leave an impression. Chaotic and twisted – but very, very good.

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Ciaran Stordy

at 10:39 on 12th Aug 2014

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This bizarre perversion of three Grimm fairy tales was shrill, mildly boring, but also curious and compelling in the manner of a creepy photograph. That is, the whole show came across as a vehicle for one enormous, grotesque image rather than an entertaining portrayal of Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Cap and The Girl Without Hands. The chaos of mental illness was this image, encapsuled in a distorted story-telling that used sex, screams and dystopian clinic-torture to perturb its audience. The aforementioned three tales were projected from the agitated mind of Aoife – played by Aoife Cantrill – and disjointed in accordance with the nature of insanity, ostensibly to convey insanity. Result? Just bareable dissatisfaction.

Grimm suffers mainly from the incoherence of the plot, and its value as a show halted at the portrayal of psychological torment. The storyline was not as gripping as I would have hoped, and this limited its dramatic potential. Chuckles came when a daughter condemned her father as a “bad parent” for selling her to the devil, but apart from this kernel of comedy gleaming in the stream all was dark, yet lacking in persuasive evil.

The potential for sensuality in props such as a nibbled loaf of bread, spilt beer and a smashed watermelon was made less effective by shamelessly sexualised wrestling between Hansel and Gretel’s parents following their abandonment of the children. This scene was clearly included for the shock factor, but would have had more of an impact if the characters had greater emotional authority.

The show was not without redemption, however. Thomas Bailey made an amusingly winsome Hansel, and Josie Richardson’s despair-strained face was mesmerising as she flitted between roles. Bright-lights, a water-cooler and a plastic floor-covering successfully staged “The Institute”, a sinister experimental clinic. Aoife Cantrill held her audience with wide eyes and made the air vibrate with helplessness appropriate to her plight.

‘Grimm’ is not unenjoyable, it has an eerie charm. Piercing looks and trance-like poise demand an audience’s attention, and the props used are interesting, but the play is ultimately more shocking than entertaining.

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