Writer: Emily Ingram
Director: Gerry Kielty
Two titans of the literary world, whose stories have shaped the childhoods of millions across the globe – you know their stories well, of Red Hoods and Sleeping Princesses, of Wolves and Faeries, and of Woodcutters and… Hedgehog princes? But who really claims authorship to these tales? The Brothers who collected them, or the unfortunate women who have their tales robbed from them.
For a few years now, Emily Ingram’s The Grandmother’s Grimm has pursued a venture in shining a light on the women we owe thanks to for their stories and tales. Presenting this tongue-in-cheek biography, this year the show can be found just off the Royal Mile at Riddle’s Court – a fitting venue for an enchanting production, hiding its awfully big claws and teeth beneath its pleasant exterior. The story, not only of The Brothers Grimm and the construction of their collection of tales of the Germanic people, Ingram’s tale gradually opens up the concepts of authorships, and the silencing of witches, hags, crones – women, who have had their voices robbed, their stories stolen, their identities forgotten.
Some Kind of Theatre’s often humorous production finds Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm spending the evening regaling, and adapting the tales shared with Marie Hassenpflug, known for her version of Little Red Riding Hood. As the night goes on, and Old Marie (wonderfully played by Ingram) serves additional rounds and the candlelight flickers, the tales grow more twisted, and the brother’s ambitions ignite.
Ingram’s fluid and clever writing enable Marie Hassenpflug’s own issues of class and bias to keep Jenny Quinn’s performances grounded, as to does Gerry Kielty’s direction and performance of Wilhelm. The pair’s facial expressions are charming and full of life, Kielty’s occasional slip into Wilhelm’s more obtuse, and misogynistic attitudes reveal darkness to the tale, but keeps audiences keen on the characters.
That while standing up for the rights of authorship and the brother’s scheming mechanics, it demonstrates the significant class issue a foot, as well as the gender politics. It aids in complimenting Ingram’s show as having a subtle ripple throughout, a decidedly clever move given the more bombastic and energetic performance of the cast.
And speaking of uncontrollable and intensely characteristic energy, Justin Skelton’s physical embodiment of various roles does raise questions about his own lycanthrope tendencies as he raises his hackles as the Big Bad Wolf, haunches onto all fours as the Pig Prince, or ruffles his feathers for Hans My Hedgehog. It’s a fair balance to the humour within the script, which enables audiences to unwind and appreciate the stories to their full.
And though the bloodshed, sexualisation and violence may contain themselves to the fairy tales’ authenticity, Ingram’s writing challenges the preconceptions of our censored and watered-down childhood tales – the production minimal, though effective, lighting reflecting the bloodlust, envy, and avarice the characters cross.
If anything, there are additional days to tell – and Grandmother’s Grimm sits at the precipice of evolving into a lengthier production which covers additional tales or allows the pacing to cover multiple nights between the Brother’s Grimm and their ‘wooing’ of Hassenpflug’s stories. Otherwise as richly sculpted as the tales it tells, Ingram’s storytelling rings into the night, ensnaring audiences long past the stroke of midnight. Near perfect storytelling, The Grandmother’s Grimm conjures up the mechanics of a long-forgotten talent, of wet nurses, drifters and maids spinning a tale for coin or drink. Something ancient, something pure, something magnificent.
Runs at Riddle’s Court until August 27 2022