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Edinburgh Fringe 2016

The Grimmest of Grimm Tales

Avvalaff Productions

Genre: Children's Theatre, Puppetry, Storytelling

Venue: The Space @ Surgeon's Hall


Low Down

Three tales from the vast collection (over 200) collected by the Grimm Brothers told by the story squad using humour, puppets and music. Aimed at a family audience.


The Brothers Grimm collected together over 200 different stories but only a few are now familiar. Jane Deane, director of Avva Laff Productions, wondered if this was because the others were too scary or too gruesome. Her research revealed a lot of chopping people up but some unknown gems as well. Not that they are cosy you understand, there is still plenty of death and gore, but she felt they were worth bringing back to life.

The talented and flexible cast of four: Jane Deane, Eden Ballantyne, Becky Kitter and Adam Kelly tell three tales: so we meet Godfather Death, Hans My Hedgehog and a deceased chicken in an irreverent, comic quest to re-tell the Grimmest of Grimm Tales.

Two deal with death – something that would be very familiar in the everyday life of the first children to hear these tales but rare in the 21st century where we have sanitised death and children are less likely to encounter it young and/or be excluded even when they do. Deane feels that story and humour are ways to help children begin to understand.

Godfather Death deals with our relationship with death, our wish to cheat it despite knowing that we never can. A rollicking song tells us the sad tale of Hen who choked (admittedly entirely due to her own greediness) and Cockerel’s attempts to save her.

The final tale of Hans Hedgehog is a more customary  moral tale of the perils of not keeping one’s promises.

They use music, rap, puppets, storytelling and quite a lot of arguing. The group of four are versatile and interact well with the audience, although there is scope for a little more audience involvement as the children were clearly engaged and anticipating where the story was going. All are superb storytellers and the variety of approaches – narrative, song, rap and drama including the use of puppets – kept the children glued to their seats. There was not a fidget to be seen. There were plenty of modern references to keep the sense of the relevance of these stories to  life in 2016.

The roles are treated as gender blind so the two women and two men flip in and out of male/female roles of farmers, hedgehogs, kings, princesses and chickens.

The set is a little cramped on the tiny stage but the cast managed without too much falling over each other. The props and puppets supplement the action rather than getting in the way of it. Probably everyone’s favourite was the hedgehog… but to say more would be to spoil the story.

Lacking children of my own I canvassed some of the younger members of the audience. This is what they had to say:

Brilliant. My favourite was Godfather Death  (Ella)

Awesome. I thought I’d be too old but it was great (Anna)

More awesome. My favourite was the hedgehog one  (Aaron)

And what would you give it out of five?

5/5 (Ian)

5000/5 (Alex)

So there you have it. A 5000 out of 5 show!