The wonderful, rambling, and slightly degraded Shoreditch Town hall is playing host to an Immersive Theatre adventure that brings to life the dark and mysterious world of Phillip Pullman’s Grimm Tales. The performance involves a trip through a basement turned into a fairy tale world while five imaginative fairy tales are told. The evening is described as:
Brush shoulders with unforgettable characters from four of Pullman’s classic fairytales. From everyone’s favourite ‘don’t talk to strangers’ morality tale Little Red Riding Hood to the lengthy-locked damsel Rapunzel and lesser known stories the Three Snake Leaves and The Juniper Tree, this Theatrical production will enchant and inspire adults and brave children alike.
Infused with storytelling, magic, immersive action and raw excitement, this is a way to see Philip Pullman’s version of these classic tales like never before. Welcome to the world premiere of a theatrical journey full of unexpected twists and turns.
The premise seems simple, but in actuality what occurs is far from plain storytelling. Instead, it is a visually stunning dive into a dark and twisted world of fairy tales. Some are well known- Rapunzel and Red Riding Hood, whereas others are more sinister tales which Disney (understandably) chose to stay away from.
The plays take place over three main rooms and — wonderfully — after the performance, the audience are encouraged to meander at their leisure through the rooms. At this point they make the brilliant discovery that there is a further maze of rooms to explore, touch, and play in. Each room is themed to a fairy tale, but the connection is not obvious and leads to a delightful bit of deduction for the exploring audience (our group just couldn’t figure out the well room; a shame as it was also our favourite room.)
The scenery is nothing short of incredible. The rooms portray a dark, hopeless world of rustic woodland fairy tales, yet do so with clever use of modern scene settings. Electricals aren’t hidden away; instead they twist and bend to form trees, and lamps reach towards the audience as their branches. Mulch and chipped wood covers the floors, and the walls are mostly unadorned, with their natural degradation and decay perfectly complimenting the uneasy settings of the plays.
Sounds and lighting add a wonderful eerie ambiance to the production. Lights sizzle and crackle amongst static to start the play, and although the production is often spread out over a large area, actors are always audible. The acoustics in the stone room with the well are absolutely incredible, and it is a wonderful move on the part of the production company that you can take pictures as you wander.
The cast are all emotive and are natural born storytellers. They weave humour wonderfully with horror, and smile charmingly throughout the creepy bits. The costuming is another highlight – rags and layers and wonderful use of smocks dominate the plays, and the colour scheme is well suited to the dark nature of the stories. Hans My Hedgehog is a hit with my group– and the costuming in this particular play is absolutely outstanding. The transformation from baby hedgehog to grown man hedgehog is one of the most clever bits of costuming I’ve seen.
There is so much to love in this production, and weak links are few and far between. Seating is very sporadic — you may luck out and be able to sit at some scenes, but not everyone will sit during all of them. The subject matter is at times a little heavy for younger children – Hans My Hedgehog has some odd morality and possible sexual assault and someone gets decapitated in The Juniper Tree – but there is a lot of wonder and amazement lurking in the basement of the Shoreditch Town Hall.