The Wrong Crowd have readily demonstrated that you can’t go wrong with a good fairy story. The Girl with the Iron Claws is essentially a version of Beauty and the Beast, but refreshed and reinvigorated in pretty much every possible way.
It is the story of the youngest daughter of a King, bored by palace life and the limited vision of her father and two older sisters. (No, they’re not ugly, they’re just really boring.) After dreaming of a beautiful golden band, the princess leaves her family’s castle to search the forest for it. She finds it in the claws of a bear, who agrees to let her have it if she agrees to leave her home and live with him. It sounds a bit crazy, admittedly, but, true to convention, the bear turns out to actually be a handsome King, cursed to live his days as a bear by a wicked Troll Queen, who wants him in her own bed. Our heroine must save her lover from the Troll or lose him forever. First of all, I loved pretty much everything about this story, which rewrites the typical boring princess into a young woman of energy and passion: sexually awakened, fearless, and wearing dungarees. They pretty much had me from the beginning.
However, what really makes this show is the way the story is told. Puppetry and song combine with an incredibly imaginative set and series of props to make the tale completely absorbing. The puppets are beautiful and masterfully used. I particularly enjoyed the terrifying Troll Queen, complete with bony fingers that looked about a foot long. I was terribly impressed by the range of techniques used to tell their story – this was a highly complicated feat. The actors all take their turn in using puppetry, shadow-puppetry, close harmony, song, whilst going through a wide variety of quick character changes, though Laura Evelyn deserves special mention for her cattily evil Troll Queen. It was ambitious, but worked wonderfully well. I would highly recommend this play, especially if you have a soft-spot for fairy tales, as I do. It’s a lovely testament to the art of story-telling and, apparently, they’ve got more in the works. If you’re at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, definitely put them on your list.