After a thoroughly wonderful afternoon seeing Dream last August I got in contact (via twitter, what else) with The Pantaloons to find out when they were going to be back and was pleased to see it would be less than 3 months until they returned to the Gulbenkian, this time with their production of Grimm Fairy Tales.
Lights are kept at half house levels so you can see the people in audience around you which makes you feel as though the show is actually a lot closer to you, a similar feeling to outdoor theatre. It also helps that the Players interact with the audience and don't restrict themselves to just the stage as their acting space.
So the show. The play follows the adventures of the brothers Grimm and the Wild sisters as they tell stories to be entered into Jacob Grimm's book, much to the frustration of the youngest Grimm brother who isn't allowed to join in. As they tell (and act out the stories) they explore what makes a fairy tale, the role of women in fairy tales (told by the original and hilarious song, "If you want a prince to wed, play dead") and the way story telling has evolved over the centuries. There are numerous fairytale tropes referenced, from the mysterious hut in the middle of the forest, the prince under an enchantment and the wicked witch to the damsel in distress and the baddie who gets a comeuppance.
The set was simple and effective - this is a touring show so it has to be really, and conveyed a multitude of settings, from poor huts and inns to castles and forests. Note the string of candy canes, a reference to the gingerbread cottage in Hansel and Gretal. This was flung over the side of the hut halfway through that fairy tale, causing much mirth amongst the audience.
The entire play is punctuated with a soundtrack played out on guitars, banjo's, accordions and a beat set by the players themselves.