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Creation Theatre Company - Tales from the Brothers Grimm

21st November 2007 to 12th January 2008.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Mini adventures with the Brothers Grimm

Tales from the Brothers Grimm, at the BMW Group Plant Oxford, until January 12

Creation Theatre Company's festive offering in the wonderful Spiegeltent, located in a new car park at the BMW Plant Oxford, is Tales from the Brothers Grimm. Adapted and directed by Gari Jones, the show is infused with edgy, dark humour, reminiscent of Into The Woods by Stephen Sondheim.

Characters familiar from pantomimes and fairytales dominate - Snow White, Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood, yet the real fairy godmother is the charitable trust that saved Creation from financial disaster following the disastrous rains of the summer. Creation had become a charity, and was able to accept donations - a prudent move from its enlightened producer, David Parrish.

Jones' adaptation is not subtle. This is a brash, in-your-face, fast-paced production, with a structure rather like Russian dolls, one story narrated with another. This could be confusing, but in fact it adds to the zaniness. The Grimm tales are often very grim. Punishments for evil are harsh. The wolf's penalty for eating Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother is to die of a bellyfull of stones. In one particularly scary story, a sickle-carrying Death carries off all who do not obey him.

Jones spices up the gloom with pop references. In one scene, the dead emerge out of their graves to dance manically to Michael Jackson's Thriller, an appropriate choice as the song appeared exactly 25 years ago. A 'hot' huntsman dances to techno music, equipped with turquoise scissors to cut open the belly of a wolf. One unusual story has actors playing coal, straw and a bean as three cod-American superheroes on an ultimately doomed mission to save themselves, whilst in another, very funny tale, the Miller's stroppy daughter is played with Estuary English attitude. The king is gloriously pompous, whilst Rumpelstiltskin is portrayed as a Dr Strangelove-like Svengali.

The ensemble is committed and full of energy, switching from one character to another in seconds. Lucy Wilkinson's minimalist set is full of surprises and Jones' clever choice of pop soundtracks is a hallmark of his style. This is not a pantomime, but it is fun.


From The Times.

Three stars
Mostly, what car parks contain is cars, and at the BMW plant on the Oxford ring road cars are normally all its car park does contain. But until January 12 what is also there is a wide, domed structure resembling a Mongolian yurt, soberly white on the outside, exuberantly decorated within. This is the Spiegeltent, or Mirror Tent, brought over every year from the Netherlands by Creation Theatre Company to house its winter show.

A hundred years ago tents such as these, found mainly in Northern Europe, were popular places of entertainment. Now only a few survive, and the interior of this one is hung with velvet drapes, supported on intricately carved pillars, lit by ingeniously fretted lamps, and all reflected in the elaborately framed mirrors hanging along the encircling wall.

Creation have once again placed a raised circular stage at the centre, surrounded it with three concentric circles of chairs and small tables, and here the company’s six (but sometimes seven) players take us at breakneck speed through a dozen or more of what used to be known in this country as Grimm's Fairy Tales.

There isn’t a fairy in any of them, but Death figures, witches cast spells, and help for heroic innocents is provided by a variety of birds, a magical juniper tree and, oh, yes, seven dwarfs. Snow White is the only stupid heroine in the show, and Gari Jones, the adapter and director, hardly attempts to disguise this, indeed emphasising her soppiness by giving her a rescuer who introduces himself to us as “the Rather Effeminate Prince”.

The cast play innumerable characters, abandoning one story for another, returning to complete it later, darting between narration and acting. Sometimes they raise objections to what they are asked to do, perhaps when an alternative version of a tale would allow them to marry the princess or whatever. A young tot near me thought this meant they were making it up as they went along, which is a nice thought, but in fact it must be precisely rehearsed, though flexibly enough so that (as on my visit) when one of the cast is absent the others can cover for her.

Archaic notions of duty and deference mix happily with modern teenage sulks, notably from a Miller’s chav daughter (Claire Andreadis) making no attempt to spin straw into gold. Traps open up all over the stage, into which wolves and witches tumble and from which Richard Kidd’s Prussian Rumpelstiltskin pops up like a bald and grinning Jack-in-the-box.

The cast are impressively skilful, if prone to gabble when approaching the end of a tale. The strands are woven together less neatly than in Arabian Nights last year but still convey the richness of the content in a fine demonstration of storytelling.