Review: Hansel & Gretel, at Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry
Few better times will be had in the theatre this Christmas than at this typically eccentric retelling of a familiar folk tale by Cornwall’s Kneehigh Theatre Company.
Having already toured to the Arts Centre in February it is back for a longer pre-Christmas run. Its beautifully crafted family entertainment was good the first time round, and if anything is even better now.
Performed on a deck-like stage with nautical rigging, it’s a fairy tale with all the harmful sugar taken out.
There’s certainly nothing particularly cute about Chris Price and Joanna Holden’s Hansel and Gretel, who make a good-hearted but rather unprepossessing pair in their corduroy lederhosen.
In fact Hansel is actually a bit dim, but his brighter sister is a budding inventor whose gift for contriving ingenious contraptions proves the key to escaping the witch’s clutches.
As well as writing the show Carl Grose doubles the roles of Father and The Witch, camping it up and bringing just a hint of Elton John to the latter role.
The corresponding roles of Mother and The Witch’s bird companion, previously taken by a male actor, are now played by Canadian actress Edith Tankus, and the second role in particular is better for it.
It’s certainly the first time I’ve been asked to stand for the Canadian national anthem.
The production is full of daft but clever jokes, and two grazing rabbit puppets who give a running commentary on the action add considerably to its charm.
Possibly best of all, though, is the virtually continuous musical score, performed on a wide variety of instruments in the German folk tradition by two talented multi-instrumentalists, Benji Bower and T J Holmes.
*Running time: Two hours 10 minutes. Until December 10.