Mr Monkey sees The Girl with the Iron Claws at the Royal Exchange Studio, 30th May
Mr Monkey scampered into Manchester for the first performance in the short run of The Wrong Crowd's production The Girl with the Iron Claws at the Royal Exchange Studio. After looking at the posters and photos of The Wrong Crowd's puppets outside, he trotted inside and fretted until he could get a seat.
The Girl with the Iron Claws is based on a Norwegian folk tale, Valemon, the White Bear King. In the Aarne-Thompson system for classifying folk tales it's a type 425A, the search for a missing husband. The Girl, youngest daughter of a king, dreams of a golden band, finds the large white talking Bear who owns the band, and has to marry the Bear to possess the treasure. She doesn't know that her new husband is under a curse and that she will have to set out on a quest to save him.
The Wrong Crowd production company was formed in 2011 by writer/director Hannah Mulder and designer/puppet director Rachael Canning. The Girl with the Iron Claws is the company's debut production.
There are only four actors in the play, accompanied by six excellent puppets. All of the cast are excellent, giving energetic and inspiring performances in their main roles, and supporting each other with puppetry and the manipulation of props and the outsized body parts required for the metamorphosis of a couple of the characters. Mr Monkey was particularly impressed by the way Laura Cairns played a Troll Queen, two Sisters (one as a puppet), three Crones and a Blacksmith's Wife without mixing any of them up. She also had some of the funniest lines as the Sisters and the Troll Queen.
The combination of human and puppet actors works well; it's amazing how quickly the audience accepts the puppets and believes in them as characters in the play. This is a testament to the skills of the actors and their handling and voicing of the puppets. In contrast to the puppets acting as humans, all the scenes taking place in the Bear's castle at night involve humans acting behind a screen as shadow puppets.
This wonderful production is narrated by one of the characters and the strong storytelling led Mr Monkey through the play with a continuous flow of gripping well-paced action.
Mr Monkey was very glad that he'd decided to spend 55 minutes of his afternoon engrossed in this moving story, and heartily recommends it to story-lovers of all ages. The Troll Queen's fingers alone are worth the admission. Mr Monkey is glad to have fallen in with The Wrong Crowd and will keep his eye on them to see what they do next.
The Girl with the Iron Claws runs at the Royal Exchange until June 2nd 2012; its UK & Ireland tour continues until July 14th 2012.