Gold Coast Review – The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon.
A madcap rampage through the works of fairy tale legends The Brothers Grimm.
Review by Douglas Kennedy
The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon by Don Zolidis
By arrangement with ORiGin Theatrical on behalf of Playscripts
Directed by Taylor Holmes
Javeenbah Theatre Company, Nerang
Season 6 January – 21 January 2023.
Duration: Two hours (including interval)
Photo credits: Buttery Smooth
This fun-loving and largely affectionate satire, drawn from some of the world’s most loved fairy tales, is a delightfully crazy way to kick off the new theatrical year. While the rest of the word is contemplating disasters, wars, supplies, and now to avoid the next Prince Harry revelation, Nerang’s Javeenbah Theatre Company is having a comic ball. And it all comes at the expense of a stoney looking duo of characters who lived over 200 years ago and never wrote an original fairy story.
However, academics, philologists, researchers, lexicographers and authors Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm (1786-1859) Grimm did collect and arrange some of the best loved folk stories. They include Cinderella, The Frog Prince, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White. Today we know the stories better having been distilled through the likes of Disney as well as a swag of stage presentations, films, TV shows and the like, but Spectaculathon takes audiences back to their Grimm Brothers origins. American playwright Don Zolidis claims the show gives audiences a distilled cocktail of the 209 stories – some quite obscure – that the brothers collated and edited, and all in 120 minutes.
Having sat through the new Javeenbah production, I still can’t confirm or deny that, but the experience, or challenge, was to coin an old cliché a ton of fun. The Javeenbah stage was set out like a classical old-fashioned nursery with a giant book sporting the title Fairy Tales up stage as a backdrop. Narrator One (Martina French) sits demurely to one side in a charming cloak and then Narrator Two (Nathan French) literally boasts into the scene and, as they say, it’s all on for young and old. The rest of the ensemble cast - James Greenwood, Jessica White and Ella Goodhew – play a potpourri of kings, queens, frogs, servants, dwarfs, witches, magical creatures and more. It’s all done with cheap home made props – there’s about 60 in total – and lots of mugging and playing inside and outside character. Even the narrators get in on the act as the re-working of the stories gives the cast the opportunity to explore themes such as love, peer pressure, and consent.
The production takes us back to the original twisted, and sometime gruesome themes of the stories, as we learn about their darker origins. There’s also scope for modern contrasts as the punk princess complains bitterly, just about everything, and our contemporary Snow White bemoans the fact she – a princess – has to do all the housework for the dwarfs.
“Shouldn’t it be the other way round?” she questions. It all appears to be spontaneous and off-the-cuff, but that’s all to the credit to first time director Taylor Holmes who created this alternative world.
There’s even room for audience participation – although for once in this type of show no one is asked to come on stage - and an uncredited heckler.
It’s all great escapist fun with an energetic and enthusiastic cast as well as the new addition of popcorn in the foyer.
Disney eat your heart out.