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BWW Review: ONCE UPON A TIME, Tobacco Factory Theatres

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BWW Review: ONCE UPON A TIME, Tobacco Factory Theatres BWW Review: ONCE UPON A TIME, Tobacco Factory Theatres Once upon a time there lived two storytelling brothers, their younger sister and a very silly story.

This hilarious and nonsensical fairy tale adventure, bursting with absurd jokes and physical comedy, was brought to the Spielman Theatre of the Bristol Tobacco Factory by Gonzo Moose, known best for their inventive way of presenting clowning on stage.

Under the direction of Abigail Anderson, the three performers in the show, Mark Dawson, Matt Jopling and Sally Hodgkiss, each play numerous roles. The tale is mostly told through the adventures of Hodgkiss as Lotte Grimm, the younger sister of the Grimm brothers who must enter the fairy tale kingdom in order to save her brother's life before he can finish writing his book of stories.

From the opening moments featuring the two Grimm brothers, it is clear that Dawson and Jopling have fantastic chemistry together. They play off each other in physical and visual gags, as well as having wonderful comedic co-ordination, and their scenes are some of the highlights of the show.

Anderson, Dawson and co-writers Seamus Allen and Lauren Silver have created a range of unique characters, each with a different style of humour and an individual story to tell. The humour is kept fresh and exciting by the wonderful interpretation of these many different stories, although the use of visual gags and slapstick is ongoing and never fails to entertain.

There is some interaction with the audience throughout the performance, which for the most part is kept at just the right level. There can be a fine line, and this production successfully manages to avoid entering into what could be described as cringe-worthy pantomime territory.

Much of the interaction is guided by Sally Hodgkiss, whose role is similar to that of narrator, leading us through the fairy tales and keeping the story on track. She doesn't have the same natural clownishness of her fellow cast members, but she is charming and entertaining to watch. She engages well with and delights the younger audience members.

The production isn't perfect. As with any show which features some improvisation, there are moments when things go slightly awry, though these experienced performers are not put off and smoothly continue, and there's also a joke seemingly making light of mental health issues, which is in rather poor taste.

But though that one doesn't land, the majority of the jokes do. This is skilful and enjoyable clowning around.

One Upon A Time at Bristol Tobacco Factory until 28 September


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