In an appropriately darkened room we listened as the wonderfully eccentric Viktor Wynd, multidisciplinary artist and wearer of green-and-yellow-checked suits, regaled us with suitably gothic style fairytales for almost an hour.
He began with absolutely no preamble, launching straight into the story of Mr and Mrs Hendricks, ticking almost every fairy tale box along the way. Featuring wicked stepmothers, triptychs and accidental cannibalism, this story was full of classic fairytale tropes shot through with a darkness and suggestiveness that were most un-Disney.
There was definite surprise from the crowd when, after 20 minutes of this story, he rounded up this ‘happily ever after’, only to dive straight into another ‘once upon a time’. Those who thought that they were there for a historical exploration of the Brothers Grimm were deeply disappointed and several men (hopefully after having downed their free gin and tonics), headed for the exit on discovering that the entire event was going to be storytelling. Yet another section of the audience – particularly those familiar with Wynd’s Little Shop of Horrors in Hackney – appeared to be absolutely enchanted, remaining in their seats after the performance was over to ask questions of this curious gentleman.
In terms of a storytelling event, the hour is rather unusual - seeming to be more concerned with exploring the personality of Wynd and the way that he sees the world. He gave us versions of Hansel and Gretel and of the Frog Prince, both of which are interesting adaptations since he adds in personal impressions on the motivations of each character, making sure not to dismiss the baddies of the stories as simply evil. Wynd has a voice that frequently trails off or squeaks too high or mumbles into nothingness, something which is simultaneously frustrating but also very appropriate for conveying a sense of character and atmosphere, even if we lose half the words.
The audience’s enjoyment of the event all came down to how they felt about Wynd. For some of them, his presence was as alluring as the wicked witch’s gingerbread cottage, but for others he appeared to be more repellent than a warty old frog. For that reason, not everyone got their happily ever after.