Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Twenty-Five Years and Going Strong

Theatr Iolo

Brothers Grimm , Lyric Theatre Carmarthen , October 31, 2012
Theatr Iolo by Brothers Grimm “Alice in Wonderland” came from the mind of an Oxford mathematician. The Grimm Tales, published in 1812, were the product of academic philologists from Hessen. This trio of tales, marking twenty-five years for the company, is a 1993 adaptation by Carol Ann Duffy and dramatised by Tim Supple. The poet's voice may be discerned in the occasional phrasing. Flames are like “burning tongues”. Children pass through thorns “as long as cruel fingernails.” Snow puts “a white shroud on the grave.”

The main impression of Kevin Lewis' direction is its utter clarity. A half-term matinee is heavily weighted towards the minimum recommended age of six. With an audience like this, a show either has them or it hasn't. The absence of shuffle-wriggle noise says it all.

Erini Gregoriades' set, two movable blocks of contrasting size, is formed by a jumble of open frames, that serve as window and wood, cell and oven. Jane Lalljee's lighting casts the set in autumn russets and evening blues. Low-level lighting keeps the high spaces of the Carmarthen’s Lyric stage a suitably scary black.

Kevin Lewis makes only a few concessions to contemporaneity. Elliot Quinn's Prince is a party animal with a guitar. Guests at his dance rock to a melody based around “Love Potion No 9”. Wiebke Acton later dances to her death via a flamboyant flamenco.

These scenes are the exception. “Grimm Tales” grips by its economy of word and action. A two-part harmony “Where is father? Where is mother?” says all there is to say on the horror of parental abandonment. The seven dwarves are achieved with two conical hats, some short footsteps and little bobbing movement. An image like the owl, raven and dove who weep for Snow White is conveyed by just telling it.

Lucy Rivers' music uses guitar prominently. Onstage reeds give the music an Eissler jaggedness. Accordion adds a bitter-sweet note. Cassandra Jane Bond and Ceri Elen complete the cast in roles that span good to bad. The witch in the wood comes with a black fan and spider-web shawl.

A scholarly note in the programme anglicises Hans Christian Andersen. It also comments “For some, the level of violence is unsuitable for children.” These unidentified “some” do not know children. The dancing shoe- not of glass as in the mistranslation from the Perrault version- has been left in tar laid by the wily prince.

Father passes a handsaw through the window for his step-daughter to make the necessary adjustment to her foot. The audience chortles in anticipatory pleasure. At the end of the tale, omitted in the sweetened Disney version, birds exact their revenge on the sisters at the wedding of Snow White. “Hee hee” gurgles the front row.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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