This adaptation by Stephen Williams follows the stories of Clever Gretel (no relation to Hansel) and Silly Kate Elizabeth. Three puppet storytellers begin this piece, speaking to the audience and sorting out some volunteers for later anticipated moments. Together, two puppet sisters narrate the story. But while the puppet characters add a lot of fun to the script and relate directly to the audience, they are not necessary to the story and at times I felt they got in the way.
This fun production by Gannon University’s Schuster Theatre has plenty of colour and energy to engage young audiences.
Clever Gretel’s story has been changed slightly from the original Brothers Grimm tale, though some parents may be wary that Clever Gretel’s drinking is kept as a major plot point. Clever Gretel works as a maid for Rupert and is secretly in love with him. When Rupert comes home and announces that he has fallen in love with a woman called April May Juniper, what will Gretel do?
Meanwhile, right next door, although through strange acts of fate, the neighbours have never met, live Frederico and his wife Kate-Elizabeth, who is so lacking in the smarts department that she constantly forgets her husband’s name – and even the beginning of the conversation she is in the midst of. This provides opportunities for Randolph, a door-to-door salesman to attempt to rob Kate-Elizabeth by tricking her.
In adapting work from the Brothers Grimm’s vast canon, I wonder at the choice of these domestic stories when there are other, more interesting stories to be chosen. Regardless, the fairy tales take place in a contemporary setting. There are references to sports cars and iPhone5s, yet the characters wear tunics, shorts with braces and the type of Bavarian influenced puff-sleeved dresses that we’ve come to associate with fairy tales or Disney. Even recognising the era in which the tales were written, I was still disappointed that the lead female characters were a ditzy stay-at-home wife and a lazy maid - no attempts had been made to update the stories in that sense. But a hilarious chase scene with an audience member becoming both puppet and puppeteer happily wrap up this performance.
Part of the International Collegiate Theatre Festival, Whimsical Grimm does have some rough edges. Lines were lost in some places and there were moments of confusion, with the performers getting a bit too carried away in ad libbing sections – but of course, young children won’t notice that, and will enjoy the larger than life characters and use of repetition in telling the story. This fun production by Gannon University’s Schuster Theatre has plenty of colour and energy to engage young audiences.