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Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Theatre – Grimm Tales – Library Theatre, Manchester

Star rating – 8/10

If you like your Christmas family entertainment without the corny jokes and saccharine sweet content, then this just might be the show for you. It is a modern reworking of some of the well known, and not so well known, tales from the brothers Grimm, by Manchester’s own current poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

The pieces are played by an ensemble cast of eight musician/actors in an extremely energetic and lively style. There are delightful twists on classic tales such as Hansel and Gretel, Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and the Golden Goose. And there are also some lesser known but equally entertaining stories including Iron Hans; and the Bird the Mouse and the Sausage.

The acting is first class, with no-one really standing out amongst the excellent cast, but with each giving their all to the multitude of parts with great gusto. The stories are not dumbed down for the younger members of the audience. Duffy leaves all the gory bits in, including death, abandonment and cruelty to the children in the playlets. The set too is worthy of mention, with Gary McCann’s clever use of perspective and to convey the murky forest beyond.

The audience, young and old, are challenged by director Rachel O’Riordan to make great use of their imaginations, with little use of props to tell the rich stories, except most notably in the Golden Goose, where dolls are very cleverly used to get a few necessary extra cast members. The action is fast paced and the audience are kept well entertained. Particularly of note is the Little Red Riding Hood story, here called Little Red Cap, where the four male members of the acting cast have the audience in stitches with their renditions of the wolf and the grandmother alike.

This is a thoroughly recommended Christmas package for those seeking a bit of solace from turkey and the sales. And most importantly, it treats both adults and children with respect instead of pandering to the worst excesses of the season.

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