This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews. The original post can be viewed here.
In a world where fairy tales often come bubble wrapped in layers of Disney animation it’s easy to forget that some of our most well-loved tales were originally conceived as violent folk tales that are chilling to young children and equally haunting to adults.
Theatr Iolo’s Grimm Tales takes on two of the most recognisable stories written by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. The show opens with a quirky musical number that introduces its audience to the familiar characters featured in Hansel and Gretel, the tale of two smart young children who are abandoned by their parents in a darkened forest and seek refuge in a nearby house made of gingerbread and cakes. The next tale is that of Ashputtel (which translates into the wider-known Cinderella). Bullied by her stepsisters, Ashputtel visits her mother’s grave and prays that her circumstances will change.
A set of wooden frames and doors provides multiple uses throughout the two stories and, with minimal costume changes and a very simple ball gown for Ashputtel, there’s plenty of space for the young audience to use their imaginations to bring the visual elements of the tales to life. The lighting design by Jane Lalljee helps to establish the scenes although the darkened forest featured in Hansel and Gretel proved to be a little too scary for one or two small audience members whilst the victorious burning of the witch was an atmospheric moment to cherish.
There are sound performances throughout from the cast of five. Wiebke Acton and Ceri Elen are charming as the brave Hansel and Gretel before transforming into Ashputtel’s irksome stepsisters. Hannah McPake captures the evil of the Mother and the Witch in Hansel and Gretel and later succeeds to win the audiences heart with her portrayal of Ashputtel. Brian Acton is a slightly more rock and roll Prince than we would usually expect (a lovely contemporary twist) whilst director Kevin Lewis gives a thrilling performance as Hansel and Gretel’s loving father and Ashputtel’s less than loving stepmother.
In previous productions, Theatr Iolo has treated audiences to three tales and, although the current two tale production has an ideal running time of 55 minutes, many audience members left the theatre hungry for another tale.
Runs until Friday 1st August