Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Hansel & Gretel - Theatre Royal, Stratford East

Hansel & Gretel by Hope Massiah
Director: Dawn Reid
Reviewer: John Roberts

Traditonal family shows couldn't get any better than this fantastic festive offering from the Theatre Royal, This is a show that doesn't pretend to be something it is not. This is pure unadulterated sweetness and it leaves you with an aftertaste that makes you want more! Writer Hope Messiah has told the traditional story of Heathrow & Gatwick (sorry could't resist!) Hansel & Gretel, added all the traditonal panto elements; the boo's, the cheer's, the look behind you's and the song sheet and has penned herself a real festive treat.

Having recently lost their mother and their fathers business is down the pan, Hansel, Greatel, their Father and new Step Mother, move 'To the country' for a better life, but all is not good for in the woods lives the Wicked Wicked Witch of the Woods, so Wicked that they named her twice, having gained a reputation for eating children she sets her sights on Hansel & Gretel, helped along by her trusty sidekick Wolf, but with the help of Arrabella the ranger tomboy, Yellow Bird and of course the head of the Woodland Watch, Monty the Mole things for the Witch won't be as easy as she first thought.

Director Dawn reid, makes sure that this is a pacey, slick and laugh out loud show that all the family will enjoy, from the off we are treated to a good old sing along courtesy of Monty the Mole, making the audience warm to his lovable quirks and cute characteristics played delightfully by Susan Lawson-Reynolds.

It isn't rare that in a festive show to have one or two performances that stand out but this is no ordinary festive offereing, this is a first class cast with star quality turns everywhere you look, from the super sweet and energetic performances of Natalie Best & Darren Hart as Hansel & Gretel, to the terible twosome of Josephine Lloyd-Welcome and Nathan Amzi as The Wicked Wicked Witch & The Wolf, giving just enough Menace to make us hate them but not enough to send the kids home with nightmares. Gemma Salter gave us a flamboyant and likeable toyboy Arabella, and has one of the most silky smooth singing voices I have heard, but for this reviewer two performances really hit the spot the first being that of Yellow Bird played by Peter Howe, his physicaliastions and facial expressions had me in hysterics. Now comes the point where I have to admit at first thinking this production stayed away from having a male playing the Dame and that they cast a fantastic female actress to play the step mother, how shocked was I when in the Interval I found out that the Dame was in fact male and played superbly by Marcus Powell, totally convincing and unbeliveably funny, and a Voice to match his solo song bringing the house down in rapteous applause.

This is a show even with all its good points isn't without it faults, you wont go away from this production remembering or humming any of the original songs apart from 'In the country', you may go away remembering the poor singing voice of Darren Hart and his flat attempts at trying to bring the songs alive, but after all this is Christmas and with so many good points in this show you can let this small point slide.

If you want to see one of the best shows around this christmas then book yourself in to Hansel & Gretel at the Theatre Royal quickly as I have a feeling this will be sold out very quickly.

Photos: Robert Day
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