This fable is probably the most well-known fairy tale written by the German Brothers Grimm, first published in 1812. Hansel and Gretel are a young brother and sister kidnapped by a crafty cannibalistic witch living in the forest in a house of cake, confectionery, and candy. The two children of course escape by outwitting her in a manner which will delight all aficionados of the modern story, and film, “Home Alone”.
Mike Kenny is responsible for this adaptation, before him the tale was adapted into the now famous opera of the same name, in 1893, by Engelbert Humperdinck.
The original has an indisputably dark edge. However, rest easy parents. This production is light, child friendly, with plenty of song , dance, and laughter. I had a five and seven year old with me to ensure I had someone’s hand to hold if things became a little scary! We were fine.
At showtime, the set designed by Neil Irish immediately impresses, but as the company arrive on stage, it is the work of Tim Heywood, Costume Designer and Head of Wardrobe which enchants and beguiles. There are Rooks. Lots of them. They combine an other worldly Gothic appearance, the males wearing large Georgian coats, with that of nomadic troubadours, replete with colour, sparkle, movement, fantasy and sheer joie-de- vivre. Always ready with a song to move the narrative along.
The children, Hansel, played by the ebullient Craig Anderson, and Gretel, played by the coquettish Yana Penrose, start off spoiled, then become lured and trapped by the evil witch, before tricking her, resulting in ingredients not to be found in Mary Berry’s recipe book in the oven! It is a classic morality tale with a song and dance never far away.
Physically, the most impressive moment is the transformation of the deceptive candy house into the malevolent witch’s kitchen with its infamous oven…
Christopher Price excels, as Ginger the Witch. It is a very difficult part to play, but he offers the right amount of specious allure to draw the children in, before morphing into evil, but not so much evil that it disturbs the children in the audience. He succeeds spectacularly with his song ‘Oh Boy’ the musical highlight of the evening. Five years old audience member Jacob muttered, “I hate you”, as the Witch tricked the children – Christopher Price will take that as the compliment it is intended to be!
Director Sarah Brigham has once again demonstrated her ability to mould a classic story for a modern audience, combining entertainment with jeopardy, to forge a hugely satisfying production.
Fabulous family Christmas entertainment with a proper narrative, edge, humour, colour and fun. Runs until Saturday 5th January.