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Edinburgh Fringe 2012

The Last Fairytale

Atlas Theatre

Genre: Physical Theatre


 Sweet Venues


Low Down

"Two lost souls trapped in a rotten little theatre, each night tell three tales to the darkness, each day they lay lifeless and forget.". A dark take on story performance from Atlas Theatre.


Disturbing images will greet you in the last Fairytale. Front stage, front of curtain, from our full throated clown host, and on stage from our two marionettes who dream of finding their own story in a world where they repeat the same three tales, night after nght after night. And not a happy ending in sight…

There’s a grotesque beauty in the Last Fairytale that reminds me of the work of River People. Dark comedy blends with eloquent meaning and what emerges is a bad but compelling dream, laden with meaning – a story that has a barrow boy showmanship blended with story and symbol.

"Truly remarkable things can occur in the moon shadow where the gutter meets the stars" and here we have more gutter than stars. This is a production set in gloom, and the bluish hue of the puppets and their grotesque movements create a parody of normality and, in that paradoy, a power as both image and drama.
This is a directly staged piece of theatre dressed in poetic language and the setting of a cracked record puppet theatre in the back alleys that shared fables… The tale of the wishing well begins our night by a flickering candle.
Physical exaggeration and rubber limbs not properly crafted on,  we have unhinged puppetry that gives a nightmarish feel to the stories. The performers create believable half-incarnated marionettes and the effect theatrically is both intriguing and disturbing.
This is a twilight world of half light and I think something archetypal in the human condition has been captured here in this antidote to Disney. Tim Burton comes to mind and so does the Punch and Judy of Lindsay Kemp.
A unique impression is created in this pieces of story theatre.  The distorted vista that opens up before us isn’t always helped by the limited lighting and I’d love to see this staged in a larger venue. The twilight feel is sometimes also un unclear feel as well. But they’ve creatively used what’s there and the intimate stage becomes a box theatre space that makes best use of the human puppet story telling.
What if we become trapped in our own frowns? What if we are these grotesques in our souls ? What if our inner clown is a devilish parody of the  smiles we offer the world ?
This is the part realm of authentic fairy takes – dark, often unresolved, disturbing, engendering winter questions and reflection.
The stories feel a little heavy at some points and that’s because I think the tales are told recorded. I believe these would become more involving if they were told live.  Also too many times parts of the stories are out of sight of much of the audience – visuals needs to be looked at here. This production should to be taken off the traditional stage and into the round, even perhaps to a site specific performance space. Or if it is to remain in classic staged format, then it needs a better equipped venue with amore generous rake.
I feel this production has further to go on its journey. It needs a better lighting plan and the interplay between told story and exaggerated and warped puppet movement needs even tighter choreography. The exaggeration sometimes creates unclarity and that needs to be teased out of the production. Full of intelligent and inspired design, that design needs further realisation.
I’m glad to see theatre like this on the fringe. It’s interesting, innovative, not afraid to blend different styles, and creates a unique, dark and uncomfortable mood. Recommended.