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Gingerbread anyone?

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

This week we did something a little different, we asked artificial intelligence to interview Kevin Jackson, one of our directors, about the new adaptation of Grimm Tales that opens tonight at The Lantern.

What inspired you to create a new adaptation of the Grimm Fairy Stories for the "Grimm Tales" production?

Harry and I wanted to bring the dark and original nature of the tales to life, presenting them in a fantasy-like world that feels magical and captivating. We're all familiar with the sweeter versions that have been told over the years, and they're great stories, but the Grimm Brothers wrote much scarier, cautionary tales intended as warnings and messages to be heeded. We wanted that to come across in our version, offering a fresh perspective that appeals to adults while remaining accessible to a younger audience. It is still dark, though!

How did you choose which specific tales to include in "Grimm Tales" and adapt them?

You'll have to ask Nick [Tait] about that. Several versions of the tales are already available as scripts, but we were looking for something else. Harry and I knew we had one or two of the stories that we absolutely wanted to make sure were included, but for the most part, we trusted his creativity and choices to make something we could stage. We also knew how we wanted to open the show to bring people into the Grimm World. But other than that, we just trusted Nick to select a mix of well-known and lesser-known tales that keep the intriguing and darker essence of the original Grimm Fairy Stories. That way, we could create an imaginative and engaging production. We are so grateful he came along and offered to write it for us.

How did you create the enchanting world of the Grimm Tales on stage?

Once we began planning the production, which started before the pandemic in 2019, we knew we'd have to bring in our friend Chris [Webb]. Chris does fantastic work with digital backdrops and projection. Without him, we wouldn't have been able to create the world we have. Harry also said early in discussions that he would like music and soundscapes to be a key element in creating the mood for the show and have some of that performed live on stage. That immediately brings Duncan [Parsons] into the mix. He writes the music, plays it as well and has great ideas for making the atmosphere we knew we needed. So the team worked together to design visually stunning sets, and eerie soundscapes, finding imaginative costumes and creating special effects. We said that this time we wanted an easier production. But we've gone for three projectors, five screens to project them on, and more lighting cues than ever!

Can you provide examples of the creative elements you used in set design, costumes, and special effects for "Grimm Tales"?

Despite limited budgets, we relied on our imaginative approach to bring the production to life. Our set design features interactive props and clever use of lighting, and we used a versatile stage arrangement that looks simple but can become multiple locations. The costumes draw inspiration from traditional fairy tale elements. But it doesn't matter if the actor is wearing an outfit that's just a black T-shirt and trousers with a waistcoat over it. The props and organisation of them would be essential because there were so many. Thank goodness Ian [Gibbard] came along as our stage manager! He's found so many things that work well in the show through digging around and with his contacts. Thankfully, his spreadsheets will keep track of everything on show nights! When you bring all the elements together, that's what's going to captivate the audience.

How did you approach casting for the diverse range of characters in the Grimm Fairy Stories?

We held auditions within the local community, looking for talented individuals who could portray the diverse characters in the Grimm Fairy Stories. Our casting decisions were based on finding actors who could capture the darker and mysterious nature of these iconic characters, along with being able to play multiple roles, sometimes within the same scene. We've got six actors playing a total of 48 characters.

What makes "Grimm Tales" different from other adaptations of the Grimm Fairy Stories?

"Grimm Tales" stands out by keeping the original dark edge of the stories and linking them together using two characters, that we'll keep secret for now, and each tale takes a character into the next. Our production showcases the creativity and resourcefulness of community theatre, even without large budgets. Additionally, using projectors for digital backdrops adds a great visual element. We know that's not unique to us, and expensive projection mapping is used in some fantastic shows in major venues. Still, we like to push the boundaries of community theatre when we can, to do things that are a little more complicated than we've done before. We can then take those techniques and use them in future productions or at least variations of them.

What do you hope audiences will take away from watching "Grimm Tales"?

I hope audiences will leave "Grimm Tales" with a newfound appreciation for the original dark nature of the stories. We [Harry and I] also aimed to inspire and captivate them, showcasing how community theatre can be creative and impactful, regardless of budget limitations.

Grimm Tales adapted by Nick Tait, directed by Harry Rowbotham and Kevin Jackson, runs Wednesday 14 to Saturday 24 June 2023

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