Edinburgh Fringe 2014
In this complex narrative, a young woman finds herself in a hospital, her memories replaced by vivid fairy tales. A combination of modern fairy tale adaptations and an absurd reality in the hospital, with darkly comic physical theatre. The play tells the story with embodied movement and sound that is both compelling and disorienting. This show is put on by Hypnotist Theatre Company, a student-run company from Oxford.
Grimm begins with a bang. Suddenly four strange medical professionals with absurdist dance-like gestures leer over a young woman in a chair, presumably their patient. Like the entire show itself, this scene starts off with exaggerated movements that fluidly quicken to a chaotic dance. The patient doesn’t know her name, or why she is in this ward, and as she fails to communicate with her carnivalesque medical team, the audience shares her urgency for answers.
The play alternates between the real environment of the hospital, and scenes of fairy tales, and between each transition from the real to fairy tale, strange electronic sounds play. Both worlds seem slightly skewed at first – the real world with the absurdist and exaggerated movements of the doctors and fairy tales performed with a modern twist. The absurdist physicality is comedic and emotive, and the cast expertly exaggerates modern clichés. In the Hans and Gretel fairy tale, a couple complains to one another about being too tired for sex after reading their children fairy tales, as they take turns straddling each other before collapsing.
It is a richly layered story, bringing the audience immediately into a world of intriguing narrative fragments. The transitions between fairy tale and reality are the product of the frayed mind of the patient, Effa, and the pieces of fairy tales and reality begin to encroach on each other. The two worlds become less distinct and more chaotic, as Effa becomes insistent on a resolution, and the more rapid playing of the strange music signals her distressed state.
It is an entrancing and enthralling crescendo of movement and sound, illustrating the mental chaos of her lost memories. However, when the final moment of resolution does come, it is with a sudden twist ending, that although surprising, lacks any real poignancy. Given the overall hypnotic strength of the play’s embodied storytelling, the lackluster ending comes as a surprise. For a work so bound to its plot, a more organic ending is necessary. But the cast’s supreme strength in physical storytelling makes up for this setback. The complex and seamlessly executed movement and pacing, that, with Effa’s mental health at stake, converges fairy tales and reality, is entirely captivating. Overall the imagination and intensity of the play’s use of sound, movement, and absurd comedy creates a vivid theatre experience.