Review: Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales I An immersive fairy-tale

“One deep dark night, in a deep dark house, on a deep dark road squeaked a little mouse. Up the corridor through the stair rails, welcome my friend to the Grimm Fairytales,” she said.

And this is pretty much how our night went on at the opening evening of Phillip Pullman’s Grimm Fairytales. A fantastical evening of immersive theatre set in the Southbank stunning Bargehouse.

Creative_Grimm Tales

If you’re not familiar with the Grimm tales (and without giving too much away) in 1812 German brothers Wilhelm and Jacobs Grimm created a number of stories that would change the face of storytelling as we know it; with the tales including the likes of Rapunzel, Cinderella and Hansel & Gretel.

In 2013 master storyteller Phillip Pullman reworked his favourite tales, and now has brought these beautifully constructed stories to life in London’s interactive theatre scene.

Without giving too much away the acting was outstanding, with each intricately designed room spectacularly depicting a whole tale as you moved throughout the building. Immersive yet not intrusive author Pullman and director Phillip Wilson have entered a whole new realm of storytelling.

“However the story doesn’t end there” she said……”

Sabina Arthur, Morag Cross and Kate Adler in Grimm Tales, The Bargehouse_credit Tom Medwell

“Oh no, the story does not end there. Not by a long shot”, he said. “The night continued with a raucous champagne drinks reception, which was quickly sipped whilst soaking up the ethereal aesthetic of the venue. I won’t go into details about the specifics of the décor so as not to ruin the surprise, but each floor truly is impressive.

After a musical folk song we were led into our first room for our first story. There were six stories in total, with each one wonderfully retold in the third person by the actors. I was a big fan of Pullman’s adapted stories in his book, but this was even better. The audience gets to sit or stand right in the midst of the action. For Hansel & Gretal I had to walk past their father who stared at me, sharpening his axe, until I was given an enigmatic wink.

Each story starts with a wonderful sharp blast of music and lighting to throw you into the tale. The set-design is inspired, with props having multiple uses throughout each story. Tom Rogers, the costume and set designer, deserves a big pat on the back. Excellent work Rogers.

Paul Clerkin and Megan Salter in Grimm Tales, The Bargehouse_credit Tom Medwell

Of the six tales Hansel & Gretel is the best known, but my favourite was The Three Little Men in the Woods. A lovely fable about the importance of kindness, with a hilarious frog related twist

These tales are ludicrous, ridiculous and very entertaining. Characters happily consider killing their children at the strange behest of former servants or decide to marry their daughters in the case of Thousand Furs. Some of these stories have moral messages and some do not whatsoever. Another great twist on classic storytelling that keeps you guessing.

I really don’t want to spoil the event by revealing any more details. If you like the Grimm Tales, or even if you’ve never heard of them, you really should go. This is immersive theatre in the same league as Punch Drunk’s events, with fantastic acting, set-design and direction. The stories aren’t bad either.

Paul Clerkin and Johnson Willis in Grimm Tales, The Bargehouse_credit Tom Medwell

“They have no morals, sort of like Grease” she said (Aspen’s favourite quote of the evening).


Performances run until 15th February 2015, but get tickets soon as they’ll sell out I’m sure. Get tickets here.

Written by Aspen Glencross and Martin Stocks


Website: www.grimmtales.co.uk/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/grimmtales_uk