“When in doubt, send your characters into the forest. Works every time.” A writing sentiment I tend to agree with, in the highly agreeable The Grandmothers Grimm.
Okay, well, it’s more than agreeable – it’s actually quite good, and it provided a welcome change of pace from my usual Binge Fringe fare of comedy, comedy, drama, and comedy. The Grandmothers Grimm weaves between both seamlessly in the untold tale of the Brothers Grimm themselves. Or, rather, the untold tale of where the writers got all their material from, and how the stories were formed.
Gerry Kielty and Justin Skelton are fantastic as Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm, respectively. Their enigmatic and domineering stage presence fits the brothers perfectly, and the actors are able to bounce between warmth and anger towards one another with ease. Kielty’s vocals are both thunderous and soothing, and Skelton’s facial expressions are great fun. Holding everybody together is Jenny Quinn as Marie Hassenpflug, the woman who cuts through the Grimm’s divisions and aids them in formating their terrifying tales. As the script frequently brings the Brothers Grimm to butt heads with Hassenpflug over story, gender roles and authorship, Quinn’s is an assertive and entertaining performance. The same goes for Emily Ingram’s Old Marie, the trodden-over servant girl (which makes for a great closing emotional beat) who aids in bringing the various fantastical stories to life and plays part-spectator, part-participant in the proceedings very well.
But who receives credit for that life? That is the key question which The Grandmothers Grimm is concerned with: should authorship lie with the Brothers Grimm for writing it? Does Hassenpflug also deserve a writing credit for breaking down the stories? And what of the people who relayed their tales in the first place, found in taverns and the like? Where is their credit? If a story becomes changed by its teller, is the source of the story still its author? As every classic fable is told and reworked before our very eyes, it becomes clear that every story is greatly dependent on who its storyteller is, an important message which all should remember. Plus, it’s just an engaging hour of theatre from a cast with very good chemistry.
If you’re looking for a unique, slightly macabre drama with dashes of physical comedy about the nature of storytelling, then check out The Grandmothers Grimm at Paradise in the Vault at 21:15, from August 1 – 10 and 12 – 17.