'The Girl with the Iron Claws' – The Wrong Crowd
Based on a traditional Norwegian fairy tale, ‘The Girl with the Iron Claws’ combines story-telling, beautiful puppets, a simple set and brilliant lighting design to marvellously set the context, mood and atmosphere for each dark scene. However, there's a new cast for this 2013 tour with less convincing puppetry skills, which means The Wrong Crowd struggles to completely hold the audience’s attention.
The plot is similar to ‘Beauty and the Beast’, only in this case the beast is a white bear who turns into a man at night and sexually assaults his very young captive princess, leaving her pregnant on three occasions and taking the babies away from her as soon as they are born. The princess, however, doesn't seem to mind too much despite never being allowed to see his face, as she has developed a strange affection for her beastly captor.
The beast is in fact King Valemon, who fell under the spell of a lascivious ogress when he refused to marry her. The king inexplicably returns to the ogress when the princess spies a glimpse of his handsome face one night... After many adventures and magical encounters, the princess, now a woman, ends up at the house of a blacksmith that forges a pair of iron claws so she can “tear her way to freedom”, as the theme song of the show says. In the end the princess kills the ogress, gets her children back, marries the king (not a bear any more) and they all live happily ever after.
The story is presented by four accomplished young actors. They sing harmoniously and double-up as puppeteers, not as successfully, for some of the characters. Although the puppets are beautifully crafted and well-manipulated on some occasions, the personality of the actors seems to inevitably sieve through, rendering the puppets unconvincing. It is important to mention that this is not the original cast featured in the production that toured with rave reviews 2012; maybe the puppets don't like their new masters as much, hence their poor delivery.
The set is very simple and effective in the telling of the story, consisting of several ladders, some wooden boxes and stools, and a single curtain that is sometimes drawn across for shadow projection. The space is transformed magically from a workshop into a castle, a forest, a cottage and a bedchamber by an imaginative use of light, brilliantly designed by Sally Ferguson. Silhouette shadow puppetry is used when telling parts of the story meant to be kept indoors, creating a mysterious and fantastical effect that suits very well those uncanny intimate moments for the princess in the bedroom.
‘The Girl with the Iron Claws’ is The Wrong Crowd theatre company's first production. It has all the elements to be a positive and captivating theatrical experience but needs consistency in its delivery. It has a distinctive and attractive aesthetic, and it is a well structured piece of theatre with enough changes in mood and rhythm to keep the audience engaged. However, despite enjoying all of those elements, there were moments in which my attention irremediably drifted away.
'The Girl with the Iron Claws'
The Wrong Crowd
Little Angel Theatre