In 1805, The Grimm Brothers began their fairytale project, with the intention of immortalising the folk tales and oral tradition of their country in print. Over half of the stories, including some of the most famous (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty), were sourced and provided by women who weren’t credited for their contribution. Grimm: An Untold Tale tells the story of three of these women and gives us a fascinating insight into the creation of a book so ubiquitous we sometimes forget it didn’t just organically spring into existence.
Written by Jodie Garnish (who also takes the role of Dortchen the Wild), the play is very well-constructed and paced, weaving together the lives of the women with their stories, as well as some valuable contextualising history. Because fairytales take place in a vague, days-of-yore world that is removed from our real sense of chronology, it’s enormously interesting to see them in this concrete time of turmoil in Europe, under threat of eradication from the Napoleonic war.
All three of the main cast members (Garnish, Indigo Griffiths, and Ellie Whittaker) do an excellent job of playing not only their primary characters but also all the secondary and tertiary roles that appear throughout. The simplicity of the set and costumes, and the whimsical musical accompaniment from Dave Green on guitar, gives the audience the sense that they are being regaled by the fireside, much how we imagine the Grimms’ ‘story circles’ would have played out at the time.
It’s a riff we’re well-accustomed to by now, that Virginia Woolf adage “I would venture to guess that Anon […] was often a woman”, but it doesn’t make it any less powerful to see the women whose knowledge and efforts were ignored in the past finally get some of the credit and attention they deserve.