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Dark Tales

Published Friday 27 March 2009 at 17:20 by Catherine Usher

The surroundings can frequently be rather sparse in fringe theatre, so the effort that Giant Olive goes to for the audience’s comfort in this instance is especially welcome. All the chairs have cushions scattered on them and tea lights adorn the tables, casting a pretty glow on to the stage.

Walking us through six of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales, the cast of two guys and seven girls has a lot of work to get through and it’s clear that even they find some of the tales more appealing than others. While the first one, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, is marched through at great speed, the final, arguably most famous tale, The Red Shoes, is savoured with delight.

Both the boys do a fine line as rather hapless, well-spoken gents - and that’s about it, so it is down to the women to display variety. Alice Birch is particularly versatile playing a cunning young country boy at one moment and then a proud princess the next. Abi Unwin-Smith displays her dancing talents as the gypsy-esque red shoes, teasing and tormenting her wearer, Karen (Annie Clarke), and binding herself to her owner with a long red scarf. Clarke is the most striking of them all as a variety of hopeless maidens - her doll-like charm is ideal for the genre.

Players leap in and out of the action to narrate the stories or bring the characters to life. They interact with the audience throughout - but in such close proximity, that won’t be to everyone’s taste, however comfortable the cushions are. The same can be said for the show in general, but if you’re in search of a little Easter-time enchantment, it might just fit the bill.

Production information

Lion & Unicorn, London, March 24-April 18

Hans Christian Andersen
Rafe Beckley
Giant Olive
Alice Birch, James Canvin, Annie Clarke, Emma Manley, Stuart Mansell, Minna Pang, Meriel Rozenkranz, Gemma Sinclair, Abi Unwin-Smith
Running time:
1hr 55mins

Production information displayed was believed correct at time of review. Information may change over the run of the show.

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Run sheet

King's Head, Islington London
January 24-February 15 2014