Theatre review - Grimm Tales Dukes Theatre, Williamson Park, Lancaster

Helen Longworth in a scene from The Dukes production of Grimm Tales

Helen Longworth in a scene from The Dukes production of Grimm Tales - Credit: Dukes Theatre

You can never get too Grimm, even in these troubled times . . .

Just take a handful of the famous Brothers’ fairy tales - full of witches, wolves, fairies and frogs - and an audience, of all ages, will once again believe it will all be happy ever after.

The Dukes Theatre’s annual promenade play in Lancaster’s Williamson Park bounces back into outdoor life like it’s never been away.

In fact it’s been on walkabout for two years. The first was to catch its financial breath, and spruce up its technical equipment; the second was for everybody-knows-what.

The pandemic still managed to wipe out a couple of performances last week after a crew member tested positive, but if ever a show had to go on, and bring entertainment back to life, then look no further.

Red Riding Hood gets stuck to the Golden Goose, that takes flight with Six Swans, who meet a Princess and a Frog, while Rapunzel lets her hair down and Hansel & Gretel eat out to help out. Or something along those lines.

Writer Andrew Pollard (a memorable Frank when the Dukes last staged Educating Rita) wraps them all around a contemporary story involving a broken family (who happen to work in the park and take over when the ‘original cast’ go off to a Netflix audition). He also throws in a selection of catchy original songs.

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It’s all delightfully easy to follow, provided you keep in close touch with your wide-eyed inner child. That way you won’t even flinch at Elvis the Wolf – he ain’t nothing but a big-eared hound dog!

It’s much more fun when it’s physical rather than verbal, and director Sarah Punshon wisely restricts it all to just three locations amongst the natural dips, dells and courtyard of this glorious public park. The best of the scenic and lighting effects are saved to last, though nothing ever rivals the setting sun behind Lakeland’s mountains, timed right around the interval.

A frantic cast of five - Alyce Liburd, Helen Longworth, Derek Elroy, Clare Storey and Lewis Kennedy - swap gender, cultural and creature roles with abandon.

These productions have been entertaining audiences for more than 30 years, but it’s maybe only after their extended absence that you appreciate their joyful importance.

Grimm Tales runs until August 22.

dukeslancaster.org