Creation Theatre have a knack for putting on quirky productions which are perfect for the times. We were introduced to this innovative Oxford-based company in March 2020 when we were invited to review their site-specific show The Time Machine, a spookily prophetic production about a pandemic. Almost a year on, Creation have well and truly made a name for themselves as pioneers of Zoom-based theatre, showing off their technical wizardry in family friendly shows including Alice: A Virtual Theme Park and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Their latest offering is a rather more adult affair, telling twisted tales by the Brothers Grimm in the macabre manner that they were originally envisaged.
Grimm Tales for Fragile Times & Broken People is the first in a series of productions from Creation Theatre’s new repertory company. Weaving together five delectably dark stories (childhood favourites Hansel and Gretel and Rumpelstiltskin, alongside the less familiar The Moon, Godfather Death and The Juniper Tree) it marks a shift in approach from Creation, with the technical wizardry taking a backseat in favour of a focus on traditional oral storytelling. There are no gimmicks and no audience interaction (although the audience are able to see each other via Zoom, giving that live theatre feel). This really works for this production, with the stories taking centre stage, but it remains unmistakably Creation in style, with the performers appearing from intricate sets in their individual homes.
Each tale is individually compelling but they are enhanced by the ingenious way in which they are woven together, with common themes emerging as the suspense builds across each story. Although they have an age recommendation of 12+, these horribly dark tales are absolutely aimed at adults, with themes of poverty, child neglect, horrifying deaths and some incredibly dark humour. If you’re wondering whether to chance it with the children, our advice would be absolutely not. These are not the sanitised fairytales you read them at bedtime! They will never be able to look at a gingerbread house the same way again after Annabelle Terry’s harrowing rendition of Hansel and Gretel and you almost will certainly want to clasp your hands tightly around their ears during the majority of Natasha Rickman’s telling of Rumpelstiltskin. (For context: Mummy’s favourite line in this story was “who wallpapers the fucking ceiling?” and that wasn’t close to being the most traumatic part!)
Not one for the faint hearted, Grimm Tales for Fragile Times & Broken People is a dark and twisty masterpiece which shows that Creation Theatre can do far more than just smoke and mirrors. With the gimmicks stripped away, what’s left is a masterclass in storytelling which, while not exactly heartwarming, does manage to leave the audience with a reminder that even in the darkest of times, we are not alone.
Grimm Tales for Fragile Times & Broken People is available to stream from 24 to 27 February, and 5 to 6 & 12 to 13 March 2021. We received a complimentary ticket to the stream on 24 February in return for a review.