★★★★ | Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales, Shoreditch Town Hall
This immersive retelling of some of Grimm’s best-loved fairy tales, alongside a couple of less well-known ones, is an extraordinary journey through a world that is both familiar and intriguing.
The characters find themselves in the basement rooms of Shoreditch Town Hall many years after their tales took place. They have entertained themselves by retelling their stories and invite you to join them as they do so.
We gather amongst mysterious hooded figures in the entrance hall before Red rushes through, urging the crowd to follow her as she leads us down into the bowels of East London. Each simply-decorated room has been magically transformed to evoke a sense of suspense and wonder, but the attention to detail doesn’t stop there.
Between performance rooms, the corridors are decorated and secret doors hide uninhabited but furnished rooms, all of which lead the mind through many more of Grimm’s tales as if those characters are residents too. The stories themselves are told in a simple manner which allows the characters to live in our own imagination as brightly as those we see before us.
The storytellers themselves are Ashley Alymann, Sabina Arthur, Rebecca Bainbridge, Annabel Betts, James Byng, Paul Clerkin, Lindsay Dukes and Simon Wegrzyn and there really isn’t a weak link amongst them. Each holds a particular charm in their storytelling manner and an incredible ability to lead you deep into your own imagination.
However, there is one in particular who shines through as truly exceptional. Simon Wegrzyn plays a thoroughly captivating Wolf, with a look in his eyes that is altogether as dark and conniving as the character he inhabits. Later in the evening, his Hans-My-Hedgehog is a world away from the wicked Wolf, but every inch as captivating and performed with a delightfully humorous sensitivity.
Hans My Hedgehog is a peculiar tale, and not one I had come across previously. Half-boy half-hedgehog, Hans is disowned by his father so rides his cockerel to the woods, where he lives in a tree playing bagpipes to pigs (as you do).
Philip Wilson has adapted Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales: For Young And Old in a manner which remains true to the author’s collection whilst allowing the stories to exist in an entirely new form. Together with Tom Rogers (set and costume), Howard Hudson (lighting) and Richard Hammarton (sound), he has created a wonderful, wondrous world where fiction really does meet reality.
To experience this magical fairytale world for yourself (and it really is worth doing so), head over to www.grimm-tales.co.uk and book yourself a trip to Shoreditch before 24 April.