THE HUNTERS GRIMM at Catford Broadway
If I walked down a busy shopping street and saw a talking wolf on the pavement, a bevy of dancing princesses in red capes or a pack of horn-helmeted night-hags I might at least give them a second glance. But the residents of Catford took it all in their stride.
I saw all these things – and more – in the centre of Catford at the weekend in a dazzling promenade performance by Teatro Vivo of The Hunters Grimm which also included jealous stepmothers, blind princes, singing donkeys, dogs, cats, cockerels and owls, a poor woodcutter, a lovelorn maiden, an ugly sister and even a royal frog.
My fellow audience members and I encountered them as we were led on a quest for a story with a happy - or at least hopeful – ending by fairytale-collector and philologist Jacob Grimm who was convinced this was the only cure for his brother Wilhelm’s melancholy, which was brought on by all the doom-laden stories they had gathered and was now personified by the hags.
We started off at Catford’s Broadway Theatre before visiting a series of local businesses and the bustling Ninth Life pub in our search for hope. But we found only tales full of disaster – Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Hansel And Gretel, Red Riding Hood, The 12 Dancing Sisters, The Town Musicians Of Bremen, The 12 Dancing Sisters and The Frog King.
It was only when we finally tracked down Rapunzel and her lost love, a blinded prince, that we could finally say: “And they lived happily ever after.
This could all have been rather childish in the wrong hands. But director Sophie Austin and her tremendous cast threw themselves wholeheartedly into the wonder of the Grimm stories and gave them the darkness and humour as well as the magic that make fairytales so abidingly attractive.
The bulk of the action was borne – brilliantly - by Mark Stevenson as Jacob and a splendidly hooray prince, Michael Wagg as Wilhelm and the fabulous wolf, Kas Darley as the brothers’ helper Dot and a gleefully ghastly stepmother and the ebullient Bernadette Russell as Cinderella’s loathsome stepsister, an MC owl and Rapunzel.
They were ably assisted by Charlie Folorunsho as Rapunzel’s truelove, Seamore Nelson as a man facing execution for failing to keep an eye on the Dancing Sisters and the company’s community chorus – Martha O’Toole, Adam Smith, Helen Robinson, Mark Newman, Anthea Wormington, Jacynthe Roesch, Roseland Kieanuka, Raymond Bishop, Susie New, Primrose Wrigley, Henrietta Thomas, Sheila Warr, Marijana Lucic, Ian Powell, Nichola Tuohy, Julie Ogonya and Jackie Withnall – who played all the bit parts from deathly hags to experts in arcana.I first saw this work when Teatro Vivo performed it in the streets of Deptford almost five years ago and I gave it a five-star review. This revival was even better and I unhesitatingly award it six. I also urge you to go see it on one of the last two days of its current run, June 15 and 16. Further info at http://www.teatrovivo.co.uk/
By the way, have you yet enjoyed the company’s free podcast of their site-specific performance piece Evelyn’s Roots? It’s available at http://www.teatrovivo.co.uk/evelyns-roots-audio-walk/