A Grimm Christmas
Written and Devised
by the company
Directed by: Kevin Johnson
Lighting by: Jamie Smith
Design support: Amy Shaw
Associate Director: Amanda Collins
Co-produced by: Barbican Theatre
Cast : Greg Shewring
Support Premi Tamang
Cast: Phoebe Turner
A Grimm Christmas was our second co-production with the Barbican Theatre.
An alternative christmas show devised and created for an adult audience only. The production explored the sibling relationship of the Brothers Grimm, their relationship to their stories, commercialism, and revolution. Featuring live music, song, comedy, popular forms, storytelling and a strong double act, the production featured Professional actors working alongside emerging/training actors.
It ran for 13 performances at The Barbican Theatre in December 2019, playing to approximately 1,150 festive audience members .
It’s hard to believe that any piece of drama can be both very dark and uplifting at the same time.
But that’s exactly what The Wheel & Barbican Theatre achieve in this year’s alternative festive offering A Grimm Christmas.
The show is the perfect alternative to panto for anyone who likes their humour a little less obvious.
And it’s also the perfect antidote to the commercialism and sickly-sweet nostalgia that has overtaken Christmas.
But this definitely adults-only production might leave the strongest grown-up with a few nightmares as it strips back the Grimm brothers’ fairytales to their gruesome original storylines and reinstates the discomforting themes contained within, from child abuse to murder, rape and even torture.
The audience are introduced to the Grimm Brothers as they are brought back to life for Christmas 2019.
In fact their ghosts have been resurrected every year since their deaths in the 19th century as they are required to meet the annual Christmas demand for fairytales.
But the brothers are annoyed that their stories have been dumbed down and want to remember the original versions.
From Rapunzel being impregnated by her prince, the evil queen in Snow White plotting to murder her own child and dine on her heart to Hansel and Gretel being left by their parents to die in the woods, there are no holds barred by the brothers as they use poetry, music and dance to re-tell their stories.
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, played masterfully by Greg Shewring and Henry Regan, have a support cast who hypnotically and eerily act out some of the scenes from the stories with the aid of ingenious props and disturbingly lifelike puppets.
The quirky and clever set does nothing to detract from the powerful performances of the company and director Kevin Johnson uses wizardry to bring the show together.
If you’d rather hang on to the Disney version of your favourite fairytale, this production probably isn’t for you.
But if you are intrigued to know the real story of both the tales and their creators, this production will leave you pleading for more.
Claire Ainsworth - Plymouth Herald
Resurrected by popular demand every Christmas, the Grimm brothers are awake (even if a bit paler) and, fuelled by ginger nuts, ready to tell their tales.
But these are the gruesome and gory stories before Disney added merchandise, bluebirds and happily ever after.
With witches, woodcutters, much sharp steel, wicked stepmothers a-plotting, wolves a-prowling and oh so many shoes, the magical and mystical is drenched in blood, severed limbs and godless acts.
Dancing princesses are encased in hot iron boots; Cinderella is a slave in the cellar whose sisters are willing to mutilate their bodies to be desired by a man; the drugged Sleeping Beauty is raped while unconscious, and the luscious-haired Rapunzel is sold to the evil paedophile pixie by her starving, desperate dad.
Children play slaughter the pig, the toddler’s throat is slit as babies drown; abandoned children earn parental love by killing a crone and looting her gingerbread house as seven small men grieve even as baubles, Michael Bublé and tinsel twinkle with festive cheer.
Well cast, Henry Regan (Blood Brothers) is the charismatic family man Wilhelm and Lucian Vienna Award-winner Greg Shewring the ‘uptight man with a pot plant’ Jacob tasked with delivering the grisly and ghastly tales.
It’s a tough gig but director Kevin Johnson rings the changes in pace by mixing straight storytelling with live music, frantic mash-up of stories with sole(s), a clever ventriloquist dummy routine and a flexible ensemble including singing bowl aficionado Premi Tamang scary and sexy despite maroon knee socks.
Interesting, austere, adult-only and oh so dark.
Karen Bussell - British Theatre Guide