Review: Snow White and other Tales from the Brothers Grimm
"Packed full of humour, clever lines and comedy moments"
Step off the Oxford street, into the white cubic building of Summertown’s North Wall and through the doors into the auditorium, and in an instant you’re a million miles away in a magical intimate space with cosy tables set in a snowy forest and twinkling cottages dotted between the trees. With illuminated lanterns glowing warmly from the ceiling, it’s the perfect setting for fairy tales and entrancement this Christmas.
Creation Theatre Company have been charming audiences in Oxford for twenty years this year, and for at least half of these they performed their winter shows in the round in a traditional Spiegeltent or mirror tent – which glistened with 1930s glamour and hinted at the excitement of the performances to come before the show began. The mirror tent, however, was a crippling expense and so for the last few years The North Wall has played host to Creation Theatre’s Christmas spectaculars. This year, the stage has once again been laid out as a round, lights replicating the twinkling of looking-glass panels, and this marks a return to the sparkling intimacy of the mirror tent without the need for layers of blankets to keep the creeping cold from frozen toes. It’s a win-win!
Snow White and other tales from the Brothers Grimm is a childhood of classics creatively interpreted and meshed together in a unique and inventive performance that’ll grip you with its story, humour and #quality-quirk-factor, a hashtag its seems only right to create for this show.
The cast comprises of six members in organic rustic costumes, copper-warm in the yellow lights with a Dickensian scruffiness. The stage is entirely bare throughout, and the tales are woven above it with wonderful words, character, and movement, aided by the occasional trapdoor-related occurrence and the changing tones of ceiling lights which, for example, create the impression of snow with vivid white, shine purple for a dark night and glow green for the envy and evil of a wicked step-mother.
The original Grimm tales were exactly that – grim – and while this show doesn’t take the sugary-sweet approach so often applied to younger children, it’s packed full of humour, clever lines and comedy moments that had both children and adults chuckling time and time again.
Josie Dunn is perfectly cast as a sassy teen with attitude for Snow White, adapting seamlessly to the headphone-wearing Red Riding Hood who is on the way to see her Grandma who has a bit of a drink problem when she comes across a red caped Highway Man/Wolf. Clare Humphrey is a brilliant Queen, Simon Yadoo has brilliant stage presence as both the mirror and a myriad of other parts and Shelley Atkinson (Gretel and others) shows wonderful versatility in a range of roles. You’d never believe that this small cast could be so many distinctly different characters with only a change of accent accessory!
Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin and other stories are told one inside another each holding the attention of the audience fast as they plummet into and back from the layered chapters of a traditional story book, like the unpacking of a Russian doll or the consuming of a Christmas bird-within-a-bird-within-a-bird for a festive feast. And just as you’d delight in an unexpected parcel under the Christmas tree, you’ll be enraptured, surprised and amused by, without wishing to give anything away, moments of puppetry, Michael Jackson, and Death with his black-cloaked intent taking to the stage.
This is a truly terrific show that grown-ups can unashamedly enjoy without the need to take a child. The performance entertains older children (age 8+) and teens intelligently, taking them beyond the traditional pantomime into the magical forest of truly imaginative theatre with a captivating and illuminated trail to show them the way, and it also gives the more worldly-wise adult a wonderful way to revisit their childhood whilst wearing the glasses of intelligent humour. It’s clever, slick and a whole lot of fun: I already can’t wait until next year.
Creation Theatre presents Snow White and other Tales from the Brothers Grimm, directed by Gari Jones, at The North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford until 7th January
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