The Grandmothers Grimm

Aug 18 2022 | By More

★★★★☆     Sinister comedy

Greenside @ Riddle’s Court: Mon 15 – Sat 27 Aug 2022
Review by Torya Hughes

Some Kind of Theatre bring their touring production of The Grandmothers Grimm back to the Fringe for a two week run at Riddle’s Court. Originally conceived for the Edinburgh Horror Festival in 2017, the piece has since toured the UK.

The play takes place during one winter’s night in 1812, where Marie Hassenpflug has come to meet the Brothers Grimm and share traditional folk tales. Brothers Wilhelm and Jacob are gathering an anthology of stories, and the evening is spent acting out the different tales with the help of their housekeeper, Old Marie.

Justin Skelton as Jacob Grimm in The Pig Prince. Pic: Emily Ingram

As the evening wears on, Marie begins to realise that the brothers are taking liberties with the original tales, editing them to suit their own means. Jacob wants to preserve the folk tales as a reflection of rural culture, whereas Wilhelm is concerned that they should be sanitised to appeal to children and have a wider market.

The plot is rooted in fact – the Grimm brothers transcribed stories from a range of sources; some peasants, but some from more middle class backgrounds, such as Marie, who was of French Huguenot descent. Emily Ingram’s script weaves together retellings of classic stories with physical comedy and often grotesque characterisation, allowing the four actors to take on multiple roles.

Justin Skelton is perhaps the most adept at physical transformation, embodying a donkey, a pig and a hedgehog at various points. As Jacob Grimm, he appears more uptight and traditional than his brother, insisting that any risqué elements of the stories are edited out.

undertone of menace

Gerry Kielty plays Wilhelm with a friendly exterior that hides an undertone of menace. It becomes clear that his methods for gathering the tales can be exploitative and abusive. Jenny Quinn’s Marie is enthusiastic and determined, reminding the brothers that the original tellers of their tales deserve credit. She wants to see stories where the female characters can be more than victims or unwilling brides.

Ingram plays many of those characters, taking on the roles of the various women who shared their stories with the brothers, as well as opening the play with an animalistic retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.

The stage is bare for most of the play, with coloured light effects marking the switches into fairytales, and minimal props cleverly utilised to convey character and setting. Under Ingram and Kielty’s direction, two books can become newborn babies or feathers and a bandana can suggest the donkey.

The actors also create their own sound effects, crinkling paper to make the noise of a crackling fire. Sadly, they spend the entire show fighting against a very loud air con system, which detracts somewhat from the atmosphere of the play.

This is a thought provoking and entertaining show, using sinister comedy to explore the dark side of fairytales.

Running time: One hour (no interval)
Greenside @ Riddle’s Court (Thistle Theatre), 322 Lawnmarket EH1 2PG (Venue 16)
Monday15 – Saturday 27 August 2022
Daily: (not Sun 21)
Tickets and details: Book here.

Instagram: @somekindoftheatre
Twitter: @SKOTheatre
Facebook: @somekindoftheatre

Full Cast Photo of 2019 production. Pic: Grant Jamieson.


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