Writer: Chris Thorpe
Director: Lorne Campell
Reviewer: Anna Ambelez
It’s Christmas time, story time, fantasy time and deep in the forest something stirred. Dark Woods Deep Snow A Grimm Tale For Christmas is this year’s Northern Stage festive offering.
A hugely stylistic silvery white forest greets the audience as they enter the auditorium; shadowy shapes drift in and around the ‘trees’ with an ‘old woman’ (Joanna Holden) gleefully muttering to herself. we are there deep in the darkest of woods.A lone human, Luka (Assad Zaman) is entangled with four fantasy characters, a pair of sisters and two brothers, who search out stories, collect and save them. Luka is their “token human” as he puts it.
Johann (Gary Kitching) leader of the group arrives in a time machine, a translucent box, reminiscent of Dr Who. Flamboyantly dressed, he makes the most of any humour, connects with his audience and looks larger than life. His brother Will ( Paul Charlton from The Ginge, the Geordie and the Geek) looking like a geeky laboratory assistant is the calming influence, the voice of reason.
The two sisters, Mila (Helen Goalen) and Lily (Abbi Greenland) run RashDash in real life and show off their physical theatre skills extensively, but where are their personalities? Other characters like the pig (Rebecca Wilkie) in a wonderful costume (Garance Marneur) added much needed colour and humour which the children and adults loved. There are several long static monologues, one from the mother (Annie Grace) while filling in much background story does little to stimulate an audience, especially a young one.
The set (Garance Marneur) while simple, is all enveloping providing a marvellous surface for various lighting effects (James MacKenzie) but could be utilised even more, there are missed opportunities.Last year’s Northern Stage Christmas show, ‘The Borrowers’ won the prestigious UK Theatre Awards for Best Show for Children and Young People. This is Lorne Campell’s first production at Northern Stage since being appointed Artistic Director earlier this year, so a lot to live up to.
Writer, Chris Thorpe, took inspiration from the brothers Grimm who actually went into extensive forests and collected tales from the folk who lived there. All the different versions they heard were like building blocks which they assembled into many of the popular stories we tell today. This is Thorpe’s first attempt at writing for children. The brothers Grimm had their first collection of tales published in 1812, popularising such stories as ‘Cinderella’, ‘Hansel and Gretel’ and ‘Snow White’; the original stories contained a lot of cruelty and violence.Much of Dark Woods Deep Snow feels is still at the building block stage, it needs assembling into one unit. Somewhat abstract, it is a brilliant concept but it is billed as a play for 7+. However much of the text would go over the heads of the adults, also the fact diction was not always at its best and difficult to follow didn’t help.
There are good ideas, odd yet clever costumes, original designs, competent acting, interesting effects, sounds and movement, but very little audience reaction from a near packed house. All credit to Northern Stage for not going down the pantomime route, but this is a show primarily for kids and kids like to be involved, this involvement unfortunately came too late at the end of the show.
“I can sell you a dream, but I can’t give you hope, do you know that feeling?” says one of the characters, a little like the show; it endeavours to sell a dream but does not fully deliver, it all gets lost in a plethora of information.
Runs until 28th December 2013