ONCE upon a time, before the days of Disney, fairy tales were darker and deeper than the technicolor stories we are used to now.
Theatr Iolo's Grimm Tales, marking 200 years since the publication of the German brothers' story collection, therefore delighted its young audience at the Parabola Arts Centre with Halloween chills as well as happy-ever-after thrills.
Hansel and Gretel, Aschenputtel (Cinderella) and Snow White made up the gritty and gripping show from a talented cast of four using words by poet Carol Ann Duffy.
While evil, of course, was always defeated, these stories, "for brave children over six and their grown-ups", are indeed grimmer than their colourful film counterparts. There wasn't a fairy godmother in sight and rather than being forgiven, these stepsisters have their eyes pecked out by birds for their cruelty to the heroine.
In challenging children with these less familiar versions, director Kevin Lewis says he aims to fire their imagination and love of language in this pared-down performance.
With the barest of sets, modest costumes and minimal props , the cast used their acting talents, voices and music to conjure the forest and the prince's ballroom, gripping the young audience.
Stripped of the fairy sparkle often accompanying these stories, the deep, dark human concerns at their heart, from fear of abandonment to jealousy, shine through. This excellent production sheds new light on these tales which, with their lessons that the fairest faces in the mirror can conceal the blackest of hearts and hard work yields rich rewards, are as relevant today as they were 200 years ago.