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Theatre review:
Shockheaded Peter

Something wicked this way comes to London's Piccadilly Theatre…

It's Christmas 1844 and Dr Heinrich Hoffmann is searching for a book of children's stories for his young son. Unhappy with the lacklustre efforts available, he decides to conjure some tales of his own. Struwwelpeter is the result – a thrilling collection of spooky tales for the nursery featuring all manner of monsters and miscreants.

Cultural Industry's stage adaptation of Hoffmann's tales is a twisted Victorian-collage of Brothers Grimm and gypsy theatre, sickening in its horror and delightful in its playfulness. Tales of doomed children whose worst fears arrive in the night to end their mischief, laced with a forbearance for others to watch their step.
Delivered in a cramped and sinister dolls’ house set, the tales range from the skewed story of Augustus who withers away after refusing to eat his soup, to the fire-loving Harriet who meets a predictable end after lighting one too many matches.

Our compere for the evening is played by the marvellous Julian Bleach. His top hat and tailed spectre is the perfect blend of dishevelled ghoul and bungling ringmaster to the main attractions. All of which are framed by the Tiger Lillies, Martyn Jacques' charismatic musical trio. An unsettling accordion accompanied by a sombre double bass and lunatic drummer who conjure a bizarre and unsettling gypsy music, part polka and part torch song.

A true celebration of the power of improvisation between a talented ensemble cast, Shockheaded Peter is a compelling mixture of childhood stories and pastiche; a bitter 'pop-up book' pill to swallow, all the more bizarre as you leave the theatre with a smile on your face. 

Frighteningly clever and faultlessly delivered, the show provides a glimpse of a lost Victorian world – albeit a rather warped one – that shocks and delights. A sweet and sour treat that goes bump in the night.