Recently we had the pleasure of attending the opening press night of Philip Pullman's Grimm Tales at Oxo Tower Wharf on London's Southbank. We met the Grimm Tales production team a few weeks earlier (keep posted for details of an exciting collaboration with the production which we will be announcing very soon!) and they kindly invited us to the first night performance. Adapted from Philip Pullman's Grimm Tales, the stories have been reinvented into an immersive theatre experience full of fairy tale twists and turns and interesting characters at every corner...
The venue for the night was the Bargehouse at Oxo Tower Wharf, a sparse, industrial-type event space that had been decked out from floor to ceiling with jumbled lampshades, chairs, haystacks, woodchip floors, spinning wheels and plenty more fittingly-spooky antiques. The result was a dimly-lit, atmospheric scene that stretched over several floors and rooms - each housing their own Grimm tale to be told.
The evening was particularly special for the Emma J Shipley team, as our recently-launched Aesop Collection was inspired by Philip Pullman's book Grimm Tales, as well as a visit to the first theatre production at Shoreditch Town Hall earlier this year. The fairytale castle of the Frith design and the other magical creatures that feature in the collection take inspiration from the tales, so we were hugely excited to be getting a first look at the production.
We were greeted by a champagne reception and a performance from a band dressed in animal head-dresses, who entertained the crowd with trumpets, banjos and guitar music, before disappearing into the back rooms whilst we ventured to the next space where the first performance was about to begin. The show was split into six tales - some were more familiar, including Hansel and Gretel and The Frog King, however stories such as Faithful Johannes were lesser known to the audience. All of them immersed the crowd into the dark fantasy world of Grimm, told with emotion and authenticity throughout. We were also thrilled to see Philip Pullman himself amongst the audience; enjoying this new interpretation of his versions of the stories.
The tale of Thousand Furs told the story of a princess' refusal to wed her father; instead escaping wearing a coat made of a thousand furs and winding up washing dishes in a neighbouring castle. The love story that unfolds between the disguised princess and the castle's reigning king was full of humour and was played out in eaves of the very chilly Bargehouse theatre.
We also loved the last tale of the night - that of The Goose Girl at The Spring - so much so that the final scene (we won't ruin the surprise for you) had the whole crowd empathising with the old woman living alone with her geese in a vast, empty forest that sent shivers up our spines right up until the final moments.
Every corner of the Bargehouse was reimagined into a Grimm-like world. Dresses hung from the staircases and the seven dwarves miniature beds provided the perfect (if a little spooky) spot for a post-show drink and a canapé. A glass slipper was housed in the wall of the corridor and a spinning wheel sat eerily in the corner of another room - we couldn't fault the interior and the intimate storytelling was only enhanced by the atmosphere that had been created in the venue.
The unfamiliarity of the majority of the tales meant every moment was as compelling as the last, and the spectacular location on Oxo Tower Wharf was the ideal setting for a night of spooky storytelling. Find out more about the production here and shop the Grimm-inspired Aesop collection on the online shop.
Don't forget to keep an eye out on our social media for an announcement about our upcoming collaboration with Grimm Productions!