Brighton Fringe 2012
The Wrong Crowd’s ‘The Girl With The Iron Claws’ is a piece of children’s puppet theatre, performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2011 and has toured around the country before arriving in Brighton for this year’s Fringe. ‘The Girl With The Iron Claws’ tells the story of the youngest daughter of a King overcome with curiosity to explore the world outside of her privileged family. Though this kind of fairy tale appeals to the curiosity of children, the company’s Brighton venue ‘The Warren’ was filled mostly with those, like myself, who were way beyond the age of story-telling.
The company describe the play as having strong resonances of Beauty and the Beast in terms of its’ love-story between girl and monster. The story was told to the writer/director of the company Hannah Mulder and her translation of it to the stage is nothing short of extraordinary. The use of puppetry in Fringe shows, both for children and adults alike, has seen a really over-haul since the likes of Warhorse arrived on the theatrical scene yet what The Wrong Crowd create with their puppets are uncannily beautiful children and really quite terrifying Troll-Queens. Clare Fraenkel plays the Girl and plays it with such passion and finesse that it is very easy to forget that she is not, in-fact, a young girl in love with a bear. Every member of the company deserves praise of their performances, the story-teller Arran Glass entrances the audience with a mix of fearful apprehension and charismatic excitement whereas Laura Cairns‘ Troll Queen thrills, amuses and terrifies both the adults and children in equal measure. The staging meets the actors’ ability in Chris MacDonald’s Valemon, in the fur-collared coat, enormous bear head and sweeping movements transform him into the white bear to the audience’s awe.
The stage is framed by tall wooden ladders, adorned in garden tools, umbrellas and tool belts. This rustic setting combined with the costumes of company created an appearance of construction, as if ‘The Wrong Crowd’ were demonstrating that they would, from the out-set, be whittling, shaping and assembling this story in front of the audience.
The story-telling ability which ‘The Wrong Crowd’ demonstrate is aided by the beautiful use of lights and sound effects, assembling over-all a world which draws an audience member of any age into its’ believability. I found myself sat and watching with as much rapt attention as any child in the theatre and even, at the appearance of the Troll-Queen’s anger, felt the want to mimic the little boy sat in front of me and grab my friend’s hand. Upon leaving the theatre I over-heard a woman say “I felt like a child again” and I can think of no truer way of describing the effect of ‘The Girl With The Iron Claws’, it is enchanting pupperty and expert story-telling at its very best.
‘The Girl With The Iron Claws’ is, staggeringly, The Wrong Crowd’s first show and I cannot wait to see what these innovators of the fantastical create with their next show at the Fringe.