The Grimstones – Hatched [FringeTIX]
Asphyxia @ Bosco Theater
10:00am, Sun 21 Feb 2010
So: I’m a little groggy – after all, I’ve had some sleep – but I had that creeping-death feeling where you feel a deep need to feel the sun’s rays on your skin. I sit across the Garden from the Bosco, drinking in the Vitamin D and some coffee, watching families assemble in front of the steps, wandering aimlessly like some sort of human Brownian motion experiment.
We wander inside, and I take a seat on the far side of the venue, away from the majority of the children. As soon as the house lights drop, the crying starts – and continues for five minutes until it’s determined that the kid is really upset and taken outside. I bite my lip – after all, it’s a calculated and conscious decision to go to these “family friendly” timeslots, and I’m trying to be a bit more tolerant of these things. After all, the Fringe is for everyone.
Luckily, the performance is strong enough to make ignoring the mewling masses easy. The deaf and mute Asphyxia plays the narrator Gertrude Grimstone, with her assistant August (Paula Dowse) translating her signed narrative. Both women also act out the story of the Grimstones using some wonderfully evocative marionettes.
It’s a relatively short performance: young only-child Martha Grimstone, able to see the dreams of others, discovers that her mother, the widow Velvetta, still grieves for her husband – and the additional children that they never had. Martha then casts a spell (discovered in her grandfather’s books of magic) and creates a large egg which, when hatched, reveals the three-legged baby boy, Crumpet. Though the Grimstones are initially horrified by Crumpet, in time he unites the family and brings joy to them all.
What makes The Grimstones stand out are the little things. All the beautifully detailed sets emerge from within suitcases; they’re a marvel of both craft and engineering. The puppetry shows an amazing amount of delicacy, the subtlety of which may have been lost on the children present: Velvetta turning the pages of her book and working the sewing machine, the heaving sighs and weeping of various Martha and Velvetta. And the manner in which Asphyxia and Dowse handle up to four puppets at once is superb.
Even though The Grimstones may appear relatively… well, grim, these drawn and sorrowful puppets have a great sense of poignancy – and still manage to evoke genuine joy. I was utterly charmed by this show, and the pièce de résistance was the Q&A session that the women handled at the end of the performance, answering any questions the children had. The posed questions were full of innocence and wonder – but one young chap, in particular, was utterly fascinated by Asphyxia’s signing. Funny stuff :)