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Review: Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales, at Unicorn Theatre

Murder and magic in engaging stage adaptation that will get everyone in the Christmas spirit

23 November, 2018 — By Angela Cobbinah

Vera Chok as Little Red Riding Hood – one of Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales

IT is the night before Christmas and Dad is reading the kids a bedtime story in the hope that they’ll soon drop off. There’s little chance of that though. Fired up by the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, they continue reading as soon as he’s out the room. Then they start a bit of role play.

After a slow beginning, this stage adaptation of Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales suddenly comes into own as its retelling of the much-loved stories grow more and more elaborate, with Ellan Parry’s bedroom stage set cleverly collapsing to reveal an enchanted woodland world beyond. Amid the magic, there’s murder, cruelty and incest, themes that the Grimm brothers would regularly trot out for their cosy fire-side readers a couple of centuries ago.

While some of the tales are famili­ar, like Hansel and Gretel, others are not, and the convoluted Hans-my-Hedgehog both intrigue and confound. Aside from its mad dad, there’s a delightful re-work­ing of the Cinderella story, while the chilling Juniper Tree, which involves a beheading followed by soup, had everyone – adults included – on the edge of their seats. A parallel world of hapless grown-ups who keep breaking off from their Christmas party to check up on the children lets us know that the dark goings-on are just kids acting up in their bedroom, and provide a lot of good laughs.

The engaging seven-strong ensemble, include four who play the parts of children, and they are agreeably wide-eyed and credulous. Nao Nagai’s lighting enhances the spooky moments while Parry’s costumes provide loads of glitter and colour. All in all, this is a show that will get everyone in the Christmas spirit.

Suitable for children aged eight and over.

Until January 6
Unicorn Theatre,147 Tooley Street, SE1 2HZ
020 7645 0560


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