We all know how grim fairy tales can be (pun intended). So many of the pervasive stories found in the Brothers Grimm’s tales in their original versions can be terribly terrifying, gruesome and bizarre. Like I would never forget how my Lit teacher deconstructed Little Red Riding Hood for me when I was reading Literature in JC. And revealing the sexual misconducts, blindings of mankind and macabre twists found in well-loved tales like Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Rumpelstiltskin. (Thank you, Mrs C, for opening my eyes.)
Which is why I don’t read fairy tales as bedtime stories, and I make sure the kids only watch / read / hear the sanitised, child-friendly versions of them (think Disney and cheery, cartoony books). They vaguely know some stories, like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White, but that’s pretty much it. Ben used to tell me when they were read fairy tales at childcare that “it’s quite scary, those evil witch people” (I think he was referring to Snow White’s stepmother) and I told him to shut his ears cos’ Well, Son, you don’t have to know all these fairy tales, really. Wait till you’re older and Mama will surely tell you more, and take apart the stories so you will never read them the same way again! That’ll be even more exciting! Hurhurhur. I didn’t exactly tell him that; I just told him not to pay attention if it made him feel afraid.
I wrote all these to say that when I Theatre invited us to their final production of the year, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, I did hesitate if I should take the kids. I mean, I’ve done a lot to keep them away from fairy tales, and because of what I know about this genre, I’d prefer they get acquainted later than sooner.
But having caught I Theatre’s Hey Little Mousedeer! earlier in the year, and getting to know this family-focused theatre company, I know – and it is with confidence I say – that I Theatre will surely deliver a brilliant family-friendly production for us all. I have utmost respect for the hands and heads behind this non-profit organisation that exists to create top quality theatre for children and families in Singapore. So it is with this confidence I know that I don’t have to worry about the show being twisted and macabre, and that Ben, Becks and I would have a good time watching this full-scale Broadway standard musical that promises to be suitable for the whole family.
Indeed the production didn’t disappoint. The production had the overarching theme of family, with lovely songs that are catchy and inspiring (Mr Bang Wenfu, you’re a legend!) and brilliant delivery in terms of scripting and acting. The nine stories told were so carefully edited what we got were wholesome, sanitised versions of “happily ever after”, something which I seriously do not mind my children understanding and watching – for now.
The stories were told through eight animals, Wolf, Donkey, Cat, Rooster, Fox, Dog, Sparrow and Goose, and were creatively condensed only to highlight good virtues and values. Like The Enormous Turnip was told with the focus of not being greedy and jealous, and Hansel and Gretel had the message of family love triumphing above all. Rapunzel was surprisingly refreshing as it was told through puppetry, and all I could remember was Ben cackling away as the puppets delivered their lines with humour. And Little Red Cap was all about avoiding the woods, listening to your mother (I like!) and the brave hunstmen that saved the day. All in all, every story – even the not-so-familiar ones like The Musicians of Bremen, Lucky Hans and The Valiant Little Tailor – was all about good triumphing over evil and the joys we find in love and family.
And what we got out of that 90 minutes (15 minutes intermission not included) was that we had our funny bones tickled and ourselves an afternoon of wholesome family fun. I must say these animal storytellers from I Theatre were remarkably exceptional in captivating us with these tales that would have been otherwise so disturbingly grim if unedited!
Thank you, I Theatre, for enthralling us once again with your artistic brilliance!
Grimm’s Fairy Tales runs from 1 to 17 November at the Drama Centre Theatre, National Library Building. Tickets from Sistic here. This production is suitable for families with kids aged 4 and up.
Disclosure: We were invited to watch Grimm’s Fairy Tales by I Theatre. There was no monetary compensation involved and opinions here are all my own.