I went to see Grimm Tales at Oxo Tower for two reasons: Firstly because the idea of “immersive fairytales” sounded quite appealing and secondly because I had heard great things about the set and let’s be honest, when it comes to site specific productions a great set usually wins me over straight away.
The audience will see 5 out of 6 tales on most evenings (although I have heard that sometimes only 4 stories are shared while on a few occasions all 6 stories are part of the evening). It seems to be pretty much pot luck which stories you end up seeing which might be a bit annoying for potential repeat visitors who want to make sure they catch all 6 stories (hint: Ask when checking in at Oxo Tower and make sure you get different coloured wrist bands on your second visit).
The stories themselves are well told and most fall into the more unusual and less known Grimm fairytales. While everyone knows “Hansel and Gretel” stories like “The Three Little Men in the Woods” and “Thousandfurs” are probably unfamiliar to the majority of the audience.
Aimed at audiences ages eight and above the stories are told through acting and conventional storytelling by the performers making this an interesting mix of theatrical performance and narration.
And while the cast does a great job bringing the fairytales to life – special mention for James Byng who steals the show at the frog in “The Frog King or Iron Heinrich” – the secret star of Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales is the set. Rooms over several floors inside the Bargehouse at Oxo Tower have been filled with old furniture, antique lighting, paintings, old toys, books and more, the floor covered in blackened (fake) wood chip. It’s a wonderfully detailed work you get to explore after the last story of the evening has been told – and yes, they allow photography at that point (obviously not during the performances).
Although Grimm Tales is not immersive as the title promises (I’d class it as site specific or promenade) it is without a doubt a magical evening for everyone who loves fairytales.
Some advice for everyone planning to watch the show: There is a free coat check but I suggest you hold on to your jacket and scarf. It does get quite chilly in some parts of the building. And while the entry time on your ticket will either state 7pm or 7:15pm (for evening performances) the actual show won’t start until 7:30pm. So unless you want to linger in the bar area for a while there is no point getting there too early.
As for the best places to sit during the different stories: I’d avoid the far end of the benches in each room.
Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales is playing at the Bargehouse / Oxo Tower until 15th February 2015. For more info and to buy tickets go here: http://grimm-tales.co.uk/
Follow the show on Twitter @grimmtales_UK