Grimmest Tales, Past and Present
Claiming to be a retelling of Hansel and Gretel, Grimmest Tales, Past and Present doesn’t accomplish what it sets out to. Presented by the Manotick Arts Camp, the story we all know is rather glossed over in favour of focusing on the relationship between the two children and their parents instead. The show also utilises a chorus to help narrate the story and communicate with the children. Though it is clear that many theatrical conventions were work-shopped and pulled together to create this piece, it simply does not come together as a cohesive show.
The chorus is an interesting concept; after the introduction they scatter around the audience and play instruments or speak at random, creating a very interesting aural experience as the audience is seated on two sides with the stage in the middle and you thus hear voices from all around you. That being said, there are often awkward pauses between people speaking, and seeing as the chorus’ words are sentences or ideas broken between different actors, the message then becomes lost. The chorus will also periodically sing which is lovely, but not sufficient for the amount of students in the show. These young performers are old enough that they could have definitely been pushed to have a louder presence on stage, especially in song, where it was difficult to hear them. I also didn’t feel that all of the choral numbers necessarily fit with the story. There is one point where they sing “Dona Nobis Pachem”, a song I am quite familiar with, and though it was nice to hear, it seemed very out of place in context.
My favourite part of the show is by far the use of shadows. On one side of the stage there is a huge white shadow box that is used at the end of the piece to reveal the witch. This is a very cool element as shadow theatre is very intricate work. It is great to see a youth company think out of the box with their techniques. My only complaint is that there is not enough of it. The story ends very abruptly after the shadows with the main characters narrating what happens rather than showing it in shadow, which could have been a very interesting element.
Overall, I feel that the actors, though young, could have been pushed more. The story is a rather bland look at the original fairy tale, and I wish that it had delved even further into the retelling of the story rather than providing just a summary of it. Despite these criticisms, I am very glad to see youth theatre artists using more intricate techniques to test themselves. I hope these young performers continue to learn and grow as artists.
Presented by Manotick Arts Camp
By Brad Long
June 28th 1 PM
June 28th 4 PM