Hansel and Gretel lures us into a dark fairy tale in a rendition worthy of the Brothers Grimm themselves. Irish folklore, Germanic traditions and the well-known fairy tale are fused in this Citizens’ Theatre version.
Pre-show, the cast run amok through the auditorium, teasing audience members, climbing over seats and stealing packets of crisps. The scene is set for a cast of mischievous characters who must battle injustice to overthrow the outrageously greedy, nasty and wicked Stregamama (played to great effect by Irene Allan, who also delightfully doubles as Hansel and Gretel’s wicked stepmother).
Stunning set design by Rachael Canning flips between the claustrophobic darkness of the forest, filled with magical characters and threats, and the colour and chaos of the circus. The mouth-watering home of the Stregamama and the aroma of gingerbread that wafts towards the audience makes for a multi-sensory feast.
Magical, eerie lighting and instrumental interludes add to the atmosphere. There is trademark Dominic Hill direction with a sense of ever-present actors contributing to a live soundscape with various instruments and props. There is slick direction of movement with Hansel (Shaun Miller) and Gretel (Karen Fishwick) racing through the forest, and the circus folk performing acrobatics. Slapstick by Uncle Shoes the Clown (Peter Collins) amuses and delights.
This playful take on the traditional tale will delight young and old, and give them some intense gingerbread cravings. Hansel and Gretel may not be the most typical of Christmas tales, but this is a fun, engaging, dark, and ultimately uplifting show.