Tuesday, May 28

The Grandmothers Grimm – Traverse Theatre

Having just finished a quick nine reviews at the too-short Edinburgh Horror Festival, it was somewhat ironic that my next outing, The Grandmothers Grimm, had its premiere in Edinburgh at the very same event some six years previously.

The show, written and directed by Emily Ingram in association with, Some Kind Of Theatre, has been on my radar for the last few years, doing the rounds in Scotland and further afield. I have always, somehow missed it, so I was doubly delighted to finally track it down, and to corner it in one of my favourite viewing spaces, Traverse 2. Expecting great things from what must surely be a polished pebble of a show, six years old, a lifetime in theatre land, I settled back expectantly to view proceedings.

The first scene, probably my favourite of the whole play, sees writer/director/actor Emily Ingram (is there no end to her talents?), playing Marie Muller, housekeeper to the Grimm brothers Jacob and Wilhelm, acting out an alternative version of the story of Little Red Riding hood. In a very cleverly choreographed scene Marie acts as variously, the little girl, the Grannie, then the wolf, lip-synching to voices thrown from behind a curtain. But with an ending where she ends up naked in bed with the big bad wolf. ‘What a big….’ CUT!

Enter the superbly scatological Justin Skelton and the dashingly effective Gerry Kielty, as the Grimm brothers. The fourth member of the quartet is Sophie Harris, playing the ballsy Marie Hassenplflug, a neighbour of the Grimm’s, who has her eye on Wilhelm, but also wants some recognition for her part in their literary compilation.

Set in the early 1800s the Grimm brothers are busy compiling their ‘anthology’ of stories and folklore and fairy tales from the village taverns and public houses and wandering storytellers. Jacob wants to tell the authentic, ‘stories of the people…in their own words’ and be ’the voice of the Germanic people’. But brother Wilhelm sees a bigger and more lucrative market in making their anthology stories for children.  Hassenplflug, on the other hand would just be happy if the stories did not continually paint the men as great hero’s and the women as, well sex objects!

It is a curious show, a sort of ‘Into the woods’, without the musical accompaniment. A mixture of fairy tales, written and re-written in front of our eyes by the four extremely accomplished actors on stage. A battle of the sexes, a battle between the brothers for sure, Jacob being the sabotaging force to make sure that Wilhelm and Hassenplflug never get it on, although it’s clear they want to.

There is a lot going on here! It was no surprise to hear one bemused audience member after the show mumbling that they had no idea what it was all about.

It would have been nice to see more of the relationship between the brothers and Wilhelm and Hassenplflug. Reality, and drama, takes a back seat for much of the time, and the repetitive nature of the fairy tales being told in different ways by the different characters and the inevitably cyclical nature of some of the scenes does drag a bit after a while.

That having been said, there is plenty here to enjoy, and it is a show that I would happily see again. Skelton in particular puts on quite a show as wolf, pig, donkey or hedgehog!

Reviewer: Greg Holstead

Reviewed: 1st November 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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