Two years ago Phillip Pullman published a simplified ‘clear as water’ re-telling of his favourite Grimm stories. Today, adaptor-director Philip Wilson has turned six of those stories into a stunning and immersive fairytale experience set at the mystical old Bargehouse in Oxo Tower Wharf.
Yes, the £45 price tag for this show is steep, but the moment you enter the stunning derelict Bargehouse and make your way through the ‘no-expense spared’ décor you will know exactly where the money went- and the effect of it all will immediately transport you to the dark and twisted world of the Brothers Grimm.
Set designer Tom Rodgers deserves high praise- the sets are creative, dark and dotted with resourcefully quirky props – sponges to represent bread, pink thread to symbolize strawberries and yarn instead of pears, to name a few. The sets are a pleasure to explore (which you will be allowed to do at length) and an equal pleasure to photograph.
Aside from the well known ‘Hansel and Gretel’ the audience will find the rest of the stories less familiar, which adds a positive element of surprise and unpredictability to the show that could not have been there had they only used the most known of the Grimm tales. ‘The Three Little Men in the Woods,’ a story about two sisters, one kind and one greedy, who both encounter three little men in the woods (portrayed by delightfully creepy puppets) and whose different treatment of them seals each girls fate, is a definite highlight.
The downside of this production is the room temperature- keep your jacket on, you will need it during the freezing interval (which by the way has no seating.) Also be sure to pay attention in between tales; if you’re not quick enough you will get a seat in the back with an obstructive view, so when each story ends hurry on over to the next room. It’s important to note that despite what the website says this is less of an immersive experience (the audience has no role here) and more of a ‘traveling audience’ endeavor, which might be misleading for those who love audience participation and immersion in the traditional sense of the word. It’s unadvisable to bring children under the age of 6- if the mutilated portraits don’t scare them the severed doll heads will.
With that said, it’s definitely worth the trip, if for no other reason than to be transported into this world of dark fairytales and to greedily explore the sets once the tales are done. Take pictures in Hansel’s cage and look out for the man in the mirror!
Reviewed by Jacqueline Silvester
Photo: Tom Medwell
Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales for Young and Old- An Immersive Fairytale is playing at the Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Warf until 11 April 2015. Book tickets here.