Attending The Sherman's Christmas shows has long been one of our family traditions, although due to the stress of this year I must confess that I arrived feeling less than Christmassy. That was soon remedied as I forgot my woes, clapped, laughed, danced and sang through The Tales of the Brothers Grimm - it really was the escape from reality that I needed right now.
(Photos by Mark Douet)
The tale is set in Cardiff, on Christmas Eve in 1913. We see the young Stevie (Lily Beau) living a rigid and unhappy existence with her strict uncles, whilst her 'absent mother' is focussed on political campaigning. Given a book of fairy tales for Christmas (The Tales of The Brothers Grimm) which Stevie has been banned from reading by her mother she sits down to read it during a storm and is transported into the world of fairy tales for the evening.
Throughout the show we see traditional fairy tale characters break out of their roles as the arrival of Stevie disrupts the traditional and expected narrative. Cinderella's glass slipper is broken, but she comes to realise that she doesn't need saving by Prince Charming - she is more than capable herself. Sleeping Beauty wakes up and resolves not to waste her life sleeping waiting to be rescued and Rapunzel loses her long hair but discovers sisterhood and friendship. Even the narrator finds his own story at the end!
While Stevie looks for her 'story' it becomes clear as the play moves forward that she is actually writing her own. At the end she returns home to form new bonds with her mother as she finally understands the importance of political campaigning and fighting for one's rights.
Set in the era of suffragettes and the fight for women's votes, themes of patriarchy and fighting against the idea of normal and traditional are themes that are woven throughout. When the Tales of The Brothers Grimm book is broken it is like the literal smashing of the patriarchy. We even discover that Prince Charming (James Ifans) doesn't like his given role and would actually like to be something very different and the Brothers Grimm themselves find great relief in being freed from their traditional roles too.
This is all brought wonderfully to life on stage with great music, a fantastic set and brilliant acting. Prince Charming's song is nothing short of brilliant - There are many funny and lighthearted moments - the narrator and Brothers Grimm are particular highlights. The appearance of writer Hannah McPake as the Snow Queen (crossing over from Hans Christian Anderson stories provides a spectacular dramatic scene.
One of the things I love the most about The Sherman is how inclusive it is. With half price performances for under 25 year olds and relaxed, audio described, captioned and BSL performances The Sherman offers so many ways for people to attend the theatre. And this is a show that I wouldn't want anyone to miss.
The Tales of the Brothers Grimm is on at The Sherman Theatre in Cardiff until the 31st December 2022 and you can book tickets here.