When the Guildford Shakespeare Company sets Grimm’s Fairy Tales for the theatre, you know you can expect something magical. And when it’s staged in an art nouveau travelling theatre space brought in from Belgium, ornate with stained glass and mirrored panels, it’s an experience not to be missed.
The round stage steams gently with mysterious vapours as five members of this award-winning company begin an evening of shift-shaping, wizardry and battles against monsters and evil sorcerers. Ant Stones, resident playwright and Head of Education in the GSC, has woven an ingenious play to carry eight of the traditional fairy stories that the German brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm collected into a best-selling book in 1812.
Wicked stepmothers, child-eating witches, princesses and talking animals stalk the stage. There’s lots of interaction with the audience, in fact at one point I almost shouted, “He’s behind yer! “ in true pantomime style. And when an elf looked me in the eye from the edge of the stage, and said, ”It’s not funny, you know”, I could only laugh harder!
The cast members become protagonists, victims and narrators by turns, at times alternating as all three within the same story. The pace is frenetic. Andy Owens’ balletic leaps to and from the space around the stage are spectacular. Amelia Zadarnowska is a charming little Gretel, always clamouring for a story to distract from life’s dangers.
Charlotte James is all the beautiful maidens, from Rapunzel to Briar Rose, to the haughty princess who wouldn’t kiss her frog (her Sloane drawl of “Yah, Daddy” is priceless in this last role!).
I loved Dominic Rye as the arrogant continental rooster who doesn’t intend to get eaten, as a Surrey student Knight (“on work experience”), and as the elf, standing in a hole with his shoes under his chin to reduce his height!
The star of the show is surely Rosie Strobel. Her wonderfully evil laugh, her ability to flounce with every inch of her body, and her strong and very beautiful singing voice are remarkable, whether she’s the big bad wolf, a cat who plays the tin whistle or a witch who eats little boys. Her stage presence, like her stunning wardrobe of richly textured cloaks, is hugely charismatic.
The show‘s on for three weeks, before the wonderful mirror tent is packed up and sent back to Belgium. And there’s magic in it every day.
Grimm's fairy tales will be showing at the mirror tent in Challenger's Field, Stoke Park, until October 28. To book tickets visit guildford-shakespeare-company.co.uk
This review has also been published on Essential Surrey Magazine's theatre page, with photos .