Tuesday, 18 November 2014

PREVIEW - Grimm Tales

AT this time of year there are always plenty of shows for those who like silly jokes, outrageous costumes, singing, dancing and general festive fun.
However, for anyone looking for something a bit different, an adaptation of Philip Pullman's Grimm Tales For Young And Old could very well fit the bill.
The stories - which include The Frog King or Iron Heinrich, Hansel and Gretel, Thousandfurs, Faithful Johannes, The Goose Girl at the Spring and The Three Little Men in the Woods - are being brought to life by director Philip Wilson and a group of 16 actors and musicians in a site specific and immersive production of Grimm Tales.
For 12 weeks between now and February 15 next year, the Bargehouse – a rambling warhouse building which has long cast its shadow across the Oxo Tower Wharf – will be totally transformed.
Its derelict labyrinthine chambers plus three staircases and an attic, will become an inspired world of overgrown forests, slaughterhouse kitchens, crumbling industrial castles and dilapidated attic ballrooms.
Once inside, the audience will gather around the storytellers and musicians before being taken into various spaces within the building in three different groups and introduced to the characters who will bring the tales to life.
"I'm really excited about it because it's such a great place to put on this show," says director Philip Wilson.
"The building is incredibly atmospheric and it's all down to a wonderful group of people who have wanted to preserve it and have not allowed it to be done up.
"They rent it out for short periods for shows and so on, although this is the first time a production of this kind has been staged here, so we are very grateful to be able to use it.
"It's the most beautiful space in a crumbling, paint peeling way! What's glorious is all the rooms have their own story - many are adorned with graffiti dating back years so we know things have happened there in the past - and those who come and see it will get a glimpse of it as they tour the rooms.
"There is a real magic to it so I'm delighted that we are able to introduce people to a part of London's heritage and history that they may not have known about or visited before."
Philip says it will also be a chance for audiences to discover the tales in the traditional way of storytelling.
"This is how the stories of the Brothers' Grimm have always been told - recited by storytellers," he says.
"I was really keen to do an adaptation of Philip Pullman's version them for a piece of theatre and when I contacted him and asked and he said yes I was delighted.
"We did a show in Shoreditch and he loved it and wanted us to do more so I have adapted these six stories for this space.
"When they were originally told they were quite dark and nasty - people have their heads cut off, some are turned to stone and children are dumped in forests because their parents don't have enough to eat.
"We are staying true to the originals and using minimal props so we can let the atmosphere of the space shine through, but there will be twists and turns so it's going to be very exciting!"
And because these will not be the Disneyfied versions, Philip adds a note of caution for anyone thinking of bringing very young children.
"It's not like a horror movie and is not gory but people do die and bad things do happen to them and it's quite dark and a bit spooky in places, so we are suggesting it's more suitable for those aged eight and over," he says. "Some younger children may find it very unnerving.
"It's certainly not panto or what I'd describe as a traditional Christmas show!" he adds cheerfully.
"This is something much less glittery and much more gritty about these stories. However, there is a lot of humour albeit dark humour - not to mention magic and illusion, such as a girl who produces gold coins from her mouth.
"It's also very intimate and the aim is that there is a real connection between everyone - in fact the audience is only really ever a foot away from the actors.
"What we have also tried to do is to give the audience the idea that as they walk around the space listening to the stories, the get an impression that other characters from other tales have left the room before they get there."
And although moving large groups of people around such an enormous building has presented a few challenges Philip says they have not been insurmountable.
"Working out where each part of the story takes place is a challenge but a happy challenge," he says.
"It's just such an amazing space and we are very lucky to be able to tell these fabulous stories in a venue that is so atmospheric and absolutely perfectly suited to their somewhat dark and mysterious tone. It's going to be fantastic."

Grimm Tales is on at the Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street until February 15. Tickets cost £20 for children and £45 for adults. Visit www.grimm-tales.co.uk for tickets.

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