Having established their home over the last few seasons in the high-ceilinged cavern of Big Belly, a venue far larger than that which hosted Casting the Runes in 2014, with many of the dates of the full month run of Great Grimm Tales sold out in advance through word-of-mouth recommendation it can be said that Box Tale Soup are now an established and highly anticipated fixture of the Fringe calendar.
For those who have yet to experience them, their remit is simple but that is not to say unsophisticated: adaptations of classic works of literature using traditional stage techniques to enhance and expand the action, the core performers of Noel Byrne and Antonia Christophers, on this occasion joined by Chloe Levis, breathing life into puppets and props to complete the cast and enhance the action.
The darkened stage adorned by a shifting forest of cardboard trees and gravestones, the trio present a handful of the timeless tales of the Brothers Grimm, Jakob and Wilhelm, first collected over two centuries back, stories of betrayals and accusations, of double crosses and strange debts, of temptations and the honour displayed by the few in a land of barren land, mountains and starving children.
The son of a dying old man is sent to a distant castle beyond the forest to find and bring The Water of Life (Das Wasser des Lebens) before the bell tolls and he is trapped inside forever, but on his return he finds his reward is to be exiled from his home, while The Girl Without Hands (Das Mädchen ohne Hände) pays the price for her father’s hasty agreement with a stranger that he will offer riches for all that stands behind his mill.
With “three nights to save a soul,” acts of cruelty and kindness are reciprocated as stories weave into one another and wheels turn within wheels, bargains and flesh and wordplay and bloody deeds leavened by the humorous interlude of The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was (Märchen von einem, der auszog das Fürchten zu lernen) which unexpectedly turns out to be the key to the riddles presented.
With perfect diction and dramatic delivery by all, despite having previously offered superb interpretations of the works of M R James, G K Chesterton, Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde and Henry James, featuring fiery-maned lions, castles full of riches, unquiet spirits and bodies hanging from the gallows tree, Great Grimm Tales may be Box Tale Soup’s best show yet, engaging, innovative and hugely entertaining for all, making the question of what they will present next year even more enticing.