The Robber Bridegroom by Celyn Ebenezer/ The Fearless Youth by Gareth Parker

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Wireless Theatre Company, December 2011
These two installments in the series Grimm at Christmas focused on the respective central characters undergoing an extreme test of their mental and physical powers being transformed as a result.
Celyn Ebenezer's version of The Robber Bridegroom began with Julia (Becca Horn) being forced by her avaricious father (Greg Page) into accepting a marriage with local mobster Johnny Greenwood (Tom Slatter). Julia went to Johnny's hotel, and was quite literally scared out of her wits. She walked slowly down the corridors, her heart pounding on the soundtrack as she listened to the relentless ticking of a clock in the background. Eventually she met an old woman (Cassie Vallance), who told her to hide from a gang of murderers who would kill and eat the young woman if they caught her. Julia was subjected to the horrifying experience of watching another young girl being killed. One of the girl's fingers was cut off, with a golden ring on it; the finger flew threw through the air and landed beside Julia, causing her to gasp in terror in case she was discovered. She murmured to herself: "It must be a dream, a horrible dream!" With the old woman's help, she managed to escape unscathed.
The scene shifted to Julia's wedding-day, where the assembled guests were telling stories. Julia recounted herexperiences, telling Johnny to wait until she had finished. No one believed what she said, until she produced the finger as evidence. Although she was told not to think about it any more, she murmured ironically: "Pretend that none of this happened." She left the party and walked away on her own.
Unlike the Grimm story, which ended with the robbers being put to death, Ebenezer's adaptation did not contain a happy ending. However it was obvious that Julia had acquired an inner strength to resist any males (either her husband or her father) who tried to impose their authority on her; hence her decision to go off on her own.
David Beck's production was full of macabre sound-effects - screams, ticking clocks, the sound of Julia's heart beating - suggesting a descent into the imagination. Julia's entire outlook on life changed as a result of her experiences.
Gareth Parker's The Fearless Youth was a more optimistic tale of Augustus (Kristin Atherton), a brave youth who overcame any challenges set for him but did not know how to shudder. Eventually he came up against the giant Molloch (James Harker, whose voice was admirably distorted by sound effects designer Tom 'Pikey Esquire' Swarman); after a long and exhausting battle, Augustus emerged triumphant, and saved a village from destruction. He ultimately experienced a transformative process, as he took a bath in ice-cold water and learned how to shudder. At last he understood that human beings have a softer side; they do not always need to be aggressive.
Jack Bowman's production placed considerable emphasis on sound-effects to demonstrate the range of challenges Augustus had to overcome: the yowling of cats, the unearthly moan of corpses coming to life, the sounds of coffins creaking open. More importantly, the director's decision to cast Kirstin Atherton in the male central role invited us to rethink our notions of gender.
Although based on fairy-tales, both productions could hardly be described as family-oriented. Rather they made us aware of the essential brutality of the world, and how individuals have to acquire inner strength in order to negotiate it. However that process of transformation can often prove extremely liberating.