Something magical is unfurling in the murky, labyrinthine basement of Shoreditch Town Hall...
Director Philip Wilson and producer Valerie Coward have brought to life Philip Pullman's witty re-telling of the tales from the Brothers Grimm, from beloved classics like Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel to less familiar tales such as The Three Snake Leaves and the Juniper Tree.
The cast creatively and skilfully move through the atmospheric space in a richly dark, romantic and comedic promenade through a fairytale world. Little Red Riding Hood leads the escape, after which you are whisked from room to room and from story to story, which manifest around you, making you part of their telling. The intimate proximity of the characters furthers the immersive experience of this fairytale place, where the logic of reality no longer applies.
The richly detailed sets and costumes, designed by Tom Rogers, appear like relics from another time. The subtle, but extremely effective lighting and moody soundtrack also complement and heighten the haunting feeling of otherworldliness in this lively production.
The cast nimbly portray the Grimm Brothers' characters, with actors playing multiple parts. Rather than narrating the stories, the characters speak the lines to each other. The tales are by turns dark and humorous. You will encounter the naivity of Little Red Riding Hood facing the voracious (and camply villanous) Wolf, and the absurd in the comedic story of Hans-My-Hedgehog (which features a bagpipe-playing half-boy-half-hedgehog who lives in a tree with a cockerel — here played by a puckish Simon Wegrzyn).
Post-performance, be sure to explore the rooms and hidden corners for other surprising treats. When you return to the surface from this subterranean world, you will feel for a time that you have brought some of the magic with you. This is one fairytale you will not want to end. Pure enchantment.
Grimm Tales continues at Shoreditch Town Hall until 24 April (various times). Tickets: £19.50-£35 may be booked here. Suitable for age 8 and above (parental discretion for 6-8). Comfortable footwear and warm clothing recommended. Londonist saw this performance courtesy of a complimentary ticket.