The Girl With the Iron Claws sees Wrong Crowd Theatre re-imagine the story of the white bear king, a Nordic myth with more than a passing resemblance to the story we know as Beauty and the Beast. This version, however, charmingly told by a subtle and adaptable cast of four, is free from the sickly sweetness and misogyny that Disney brought to the latter tale.
A young princess, bored of uneventful palace life, meets a bear in the forest. In his possession is the object that she has been seeking: a beautiful band of gold that appeared to her in a dream. At first she is afraid, but so desperate is the princess for the band of gold—and for the adventure that this encounter will bring—that she agrees to go away with the bear. The engrossing love story that follows does not shy away from adult themes, with the princess bearing three children during her time and relishing the physical aspect of her relationship with the bear (who turns into a man by night). All fairytales are filled with sexual metaphor and it's refreshing to see an adaptation that acknowledges this without putting it crudely at the centre of the show.
It is rare to find a piece of theatre that genuinely engages both children and adults, and even rarer to find one that does so without patronising either audience. Integrating stunning puppetry, well-observed humour—Laura Cairns deserves special mention for her flawless comic delivery across a range of characters—and just the right amount of physicality, The Girl With the Iron Claws does just that.