Famed children's writer Philip Pullman’s adaptation of the warped tales of the brothers Grimm has been recreated for a live audience, in this production of the Grimm Tales for Young and Old at the Bargehouse at Oxo Tower Wharf. The immersive theatre production, in line for a twelve week run, invites guests on an adventure through four floors of imaginatively decorated loft space.
Arriving at the Bargehouse’s unassuming exterior, guests are led up an exposed brick staircase, walls littered with hundreds of framed monochrome portraits, some of which are a little frightening – parents be warned – little girls with glazed eyes reminiscent of The Shining peep out of glassy panes. Once you’ve stepped into the theatre's imaginatively adorned spaces, however, the whole experience is too absorbing to feel anything but completely enthralled.
Unique warehouse venue
An array of lightbulbs of all shapes and sizes (1,500, to be precise) flicker above, dimly lighting the way through these masterfully decorated rooms. The floor is covered with what appears to be wood-chips, but on closer inspection is actually made of thousands of tyre shavings, giving it a springy texture reminiscent of the forest floor that is the setting for many of the brothers’ dark 'fairytales'. It’s the detail that makes the production stand out so exceptionally: the theme of each room has been carefully considered in order to reproduce the detail of each tale in all its grisly glory, whilst references to some of the brothers’ more well-known fables are concealed about the set. One stairwell is flanked by dozens of ornate mirrors, one of which suddenly mutates into clear glass to reveal the steely grimace of the Mirror, mirror from Snow White relaying his inauspicious message.
London Theatre with imagination
None of the props are what they first appear. A pile of strawberries discovered in a forest is in fact a heap of spools of red thread; the chicken bone Hansel pokes through his cage to trick the blind old witch is, upon closer inspection, the disembodied leg of a Barbie doll. It’s details like this that make you realise how easily even the cynical adult mind can be deceived and enchanted. A child's ability to improvise with everyday objects is masterfully recreated for an adult audience.
Grimms' Fairy Tales
Some of the tales are well-known, such as The Frog King and Hansel and Gretel, but with some previously suppressed and grisly elements forcefully reimagined. Others are less familiar, and intriguingly twisted: The Three Little Men In The Woods, Faithful Johannes and ThousandFurs are wonderfully fresh and morally twisted tales brought vividly to life by the cast of sixteen.
The production, directed by Philip Wilson, sees the return of Pullman's tales to a new space after an acclaimed run at Shoreditch Town Hall. Guests are invited to explore the spaces afterwards, and there are certainly plenty of nooks and crannies to discover that add to the immersive intrigue of the production. True to its name, it's an imaginative experience that will appeal to old and young alike.
Suitable for children ages 8 and up
|What||Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales|
|Where||Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, Southbank, SE1 9PH | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Southwark (underground)|
21 Nov 14 – 11 Apr 15, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM
|Price||£45 (£20 for children)|
|Website||Click here for more information and booking|