Dir. Dominic Hill, Citizens Theatre, 6th Dec – 7th Jan
Those who venture out to the Citizens theatre can be sure to be surprised, as Dominic Hill, director of Hansel and Gretel, has added some interesting twists to the traditional tale. Taking inspiration from numerous different sources he has introduced an enchanting, though slightly disjointed, subplot. Alongside the traditional cast of Hansel (Shaun Miller), Gretel (Karen Fishwick), their father, their mother and the witch, Hill has made space for a whole new cast. He introduces us to a troop of manic circus performers, an ancient fairy king and his naïve son, the fairy prince.
Hill’s plot expansion manages to add a more cheerful element to the Grimm tale, yet parallels between the sub and main plot successfully reinforce the messages within the production: of the importance of family; the strength of unity and mostly, the Benjamin Franklin/Peter Pan-esque message that “there is nothing to fear but fear itself”. In traditional pantomime style these motifs are far from subtle and can be appreciated by all, even younger viewers.
Hill’s distinctive directing style can be seen in the staging, with the actors doubling as musicians playing a range of music genres, from jazz to the classical, and thus effectively determining the tone of the action. However, stage director Rachael Canning must also be applauded for her stagecraft. Switching between a psychedelic circus backdrop, the tawdry glamour of the witches’ caravan and Hansel and Gretel’s sparse home, her sets prove to be able to instantly change the mood onstage. Her puppets also add a sense of professionalism to the production and her grotesque witches’ face mask and hands are astonishing.
However, certain aspects of the performance were slightly disappointing. It often felt as if the show was simply too rushed, as if Hill’s main concern was introducing the new elements of the story, leaving the traditional aspects as a hurried afterthought.
To be honest, this production seemed more like a mutant concoction of fairytales than the story of Hansel and Gretel. Yet, it was a refreshing and interesting alternative to the traditional Christmas pantomime.