Once upon a time, an invitation wound
its way into the inbox of an overworked online theatre reviewer, inviting him
to the deepest, darkest parts of London town that few broadsheet critics ever
dare to enter. The instructions laid a trail of enticing theatrical crumbs all
the way south to the townstead of Deptford where brothers Jacob and Wilhelm
Grimm find themselves in something of a pickle. Famous of course for collecting
stories, they’re in desperate need of assistance on their latest hunt for new
tales and it is up to us, dear reader, to help them in the task, should you too
accept the summons to The Hunters Grimm.
On a dark and cloudy night, dressed
stout of boot and warm of cloak as we had been advised, our band of intrepid
explorers found their way to The Spinning Room, the lair where the brothers
have stored their collection so far. It was a place full of curiosity and I was
glad I had arrived with plenty of time (you’d be well advised to do the same,
etymological knowledge and gingerbread cookies don’t just fall off trees you
know) as the gravity of the situation was imparted to us and just what we could
do to help. Divided into two groups of Fearless Philologists and Bold
Bibliophiles, with no little trepidation we ventured forth into the wilderness.
And what wonders did we find. Stories that were familiar, Rapunzel and our dear Aschenputtel (who you might better know as Cinderella) and stories that were new to me, like The Mouse, the Bird and the Sausage and The Musicians of Bremen, spilling forth from the most unexpected of places. A carver from the local purveyor of meat, a travelling band in a nearby watering hole, a wounded soldier collapsed on a wall - it is remarkable how this adventure is woven so thoroughly into the local terrain, theatre melding brilliantly with real life along the streets of Deptford with several moments where I really couldn't be sure if they were staged or not.
There’s a real sense of magic that comes out of this storytelling then of which Teatro Vivo should rightly be very proud. Devised by the company, it cleverly interacts with its location but also its audience – I had some amazing banter with Mark Stevenson’s Prince Charming which is still making me giggle now – as some of the characters tease out our own stories as well as telling us their own (Joel Mellinger as Rapunzel’s blinded prince a particularly moving example). Kas Darley’s soothing presence as main guide Dot provided a strong anchor but the whole company – T’'Nia Miller and Sarah Finigan too, plus the community chorus – all impress in their multitude of roles.
Directed by Sophie Austin to put a smile on the face, The Hunters Grimm makes for a genuinely engaging piece of promenade theatre. Go with an open heart and an open mind, interact when you get the opportunity to – though I was initially sceptical, I soon felt sorry for the people who weren't country dancing with us – and embrace the sheer pleasure of storytime. I wonder what happened to that woman who had a spinning wheel as a wedding present, or that guy looking for his kids, Hansel and Gretel I think they were called…
“This is the time to grab the stories and pull them in”
Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 8th November
Labels: Joel Mellinger, Kas Darley, Mark Stevenson, Sarah Finigan, T’nia Miller