Norfolk open air fairytale fun from The Pantaloons

Acclaimed theatre company The Pantaloons are back in Norfolk with an open air production of Grimm Fairy Tales that's more grim than fairy. SIMON PARKIN reports.

The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, collected and published German folk tales in the first half of the 19th century.

They are responsible for the popularity of some of the best-loved fairy tales of all time; Hansel and Gretel, The Frog Prince, Rumplestitskin, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood — the list goes on and on.

Yet it is often forgotten that the Grimm versions of all these tales are, well, a little more grim than you might expect.

In these tales the frog prince is thrown against a wall, the ugly sisters' eyes are pecked out by a vengeful wishing-bird and witches generally come to very grisly ends.

This summer the acclaimed theatre company The Pantaloons are touring the country with their darkly magical open-air production of Grimm Fairy Tales — a brand new adaptation of some of the best-loved stories ever to have graced the stage.

After a date this week at Holkham Hall, the production can also bee seen at Blickling next Friday.

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In the hands of The Pantaloons these tales are often also more hilariously funny than they have ever been before.

For this story-telling extravaganza Jacob and Wilhelm are joined by Ferdinand, the lesser known third Grimm brother – who doesn't know how to tell a story – and the Wild sisters who were the Grimms' neighbours and also the source of many of the tales.

Formed in 2004, the critically-acclaimed Pantaloons have a reputation for ambitious, highly physical and hilarious performances.

'We try to include something for everyone,' said producer Mark Hayward. 'Children will love these tales as much as they ever have — particularly the more horrible elements – and adults will enjoy the clever ways in which the tales are staged along with the incredibly funny gags we've worked into the show.'

With a cast of just five actors playing over a hundred parts audiences can expect plenty of fast-changes, cross-dressing, comedy-wigs and silly-walks.

'There will be plenty of surprises along the way as each fairy tale will be told in a different style,' says Hayward. 'There's puppetry, poetry, parody, music, magic, masks and even a tale in German – with translators, of course.'

The Pantaloons formed in 2004 and have steadily grown each year with their critically-acclaimed productions of The Winter's Tale, Cymbeline, Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream. They specialise in making Shakespeare enjoyable for everyone — from little children who enjoy the fat suits and bright colours to teenagers who may be studying the Bard. However they also draw from a wide variety of popular theatre traditions.

Mark, who hails from Ipswich, gave up a lucrative career in London to follow his theatrical dreams alongside fianc�e Caitlin of making theatre accessible to everyone.

This is the second year The Pantaloons will at Holkham Hall. 'We're absolutely thrilled to be returning to such beautiful locations in Norfolk,' he said. 'They provide the perfect setting for this magical show.'

Grimm Fairy Tales is suitable for all ages but very small children might want to bring an adult to hide behind.

So, if you go into the woods, remember to bring your picnics and something to sit on and be prepared for the most enchanting experience of the summer.

? Grimm Fairy Tales, Blickling Hall, August 17, 6.30pm, �12.50, �8 under-16s, �35 family, 01263 738030,