It is easy to forget how bleak and ominous the stories of the Brothers Grimm really are until we are presented with them in later life. I had honestly forgotten the details of melancholic tale of Hansel and Gretel, but C theatre made sure I learnt my lesson and I certainly won’t be talking to strangers anytime soon.
Karina Wilson’s adaptation of the well-loved classic tale ticks many of the boxes of a good children’s show. Passionate performances, connection with the audience and a strong moral lesson are all there. However, parts of the show lacked the pace and energy required to keep an audience of restless children interested.
A minimal set, barely any props and dull coloured costumes meant the group had to work doubly hard to hold the focus of the young audience as they retold the story of the two greedy children lured into a witch’s confectionery cottage to satisfy their rumbly tummies. The cast of four are extremely strong and were totally committed to their roles, with perfect diction, meaning no moment of the story got lost or went unheard. The two young members of the cast, Laura Beth Mortemore (Hansel) and Emma Ralph (Gretel) carried their roles superbly, conveying the pain and sadness of constant hunger and the absolute ecstasy of finally being fed.
The downfall of the piece came with the large gaps of no dialogue and only music as the children tentatively made their way through the dark forest. The physical effect worked well but the prolonged amount of time left the audience bored and waiting for something more exciting to happen.
The portrayal of the witch was particularly interesting. Played by Noah Young, he slithered around the stage in a way that echoed Voldemort’s pet snake, Nagini. Gone was the stereotypical imagery of an old fat woman, covered in boils, wearing a black hat and stirring her cauldron. Young was a pretty terrifying witch; his shaved head, heavy breathing and low scurrying had many of the little ones climbing on the laps of mothers’ and fathers’ for comfort. Though this characterisation was certainly an original one, I wasn’t sure it entirely worked against the old fashioned style in which the children spoke and whether Young’s over the top movements and pained grunts were maybe just a little too much in a show aimed at kids.
Despite this, I must commend the group on their use of physical theatre, opening and closing the piece with the same group commentary and a well-choreographed piece of movement, making this old classic a little edgier and more up-to-date. An excellent lesson in stranger-danger that is definitely worth a watch for a charming piece of storytelling, but not one if you have children who are prone to fidget.