The Hunters Grimm (The Albany)

There’s no sitting back for Teatro Vivo’s latest show, which takes its audience on a story-hunting mission through the streets of Deptford

Telling fairy stories to an adult audience is a device that’s sustained many a Hollywood movie, as well as more modest theatrical productions. But it can be a difficult trick to pull off successfully. In Teatro Vivo‘s latest show, the brothers Grimm need material for their new story collection, and after assembling their ‘story hunters’ in the local library, the audience is invited to promenade around the streets, cafes and dark alleys of Deptford in a hunt for a tale uplifting enough to help Wilhelm Grimm overcome his depression.

On a damp autumn night, this seems quite an undertaking. The first story is told under the railway bridge, with the actors gamely competing with a roaring dustbin lorry across the street. But there’s respite with a visit to the delightful Deptford X café, where a wolf reclines on a sofa, ready to tell the tale of how he gobbled up little Red Riding Hood. Joel Mellinger is a bold, lascivious wolf who’s adept at ad-libbing, and he’s also the perfect warm-up act for the splendid Sarah Finigan, who emerges from behind the counter as Hilda, one of Cinderella’s step-sisters, ready to do ghastly things to her foot to ensure the glass slipper will fit when the Prince calls. Her conspiratorial, desperate husband-hunter is one of the best characterisations in the show, ably supported by Mark Stevenson‘s dude-ish Prince.

By the interval, Finigan has become Olga the Owl, ready to lead a country dancing session that takes place in The Job Centre, a very stylish bar that was formerly a… job centre. She gives her final tour de force as a Frog Prince-in-waiting who enjoys being pelted with wet sponges just a bit too much.

And emboldened by the half-time dancing, the audience of story hunters is even persuaded by T’nia Miller as Rapunzel to sing about shaking their natty dreads, as they process along Deptford High Street, watched curiously by three passing police officers.

The show eventually leads back to the The Albany, Deptford’s Arts Centre, which is home to the story’s romantic conclusion.

Teatro Vivo have devised a lively and engaging performance, with great costumes and an imaginative design by Rachel Good. The dialogue is stretched too thinly at times, particularly in the early part of the show, but the promenade gives everyone – actors and audience – an active role to play. Director Sophie Austin has also included a Community Chorus of local people to add their own unique glamour and talent to the mix. Teatro Vivo have certainly done their best to find magic in the everyday surroundings of downtown Deptford.