Hansel and Gretel

Engelbert Humperdinck, translated by Christopher Moon-Little

Opera Holloway

Space @ Surgeon’s Hall

From 12 August 2013 to 24 August 2013

Rating: ****

Review by Philip Fisher

At the end of even a long and tiresome day of sitting through sub-standard theatre, this delightful offering from Opera Holloway is pretty much guaranteed to awaken even the most jaded palate.

Director Christopher Moon-Little has transformed Humperdinck’s classic into a modern daydream with kids wearing football shirts, dancing like Beyoncé and eating Curly Wurlies.

Don’t fear, the opera itself remains pretty much intact in this 85-minute version and, despite the acoustics which suffer from a low ceiling, the singing from all is outstanding, which is a great compliment to a young company.

The acting is up to par as well, which comes as something of a surprise given operatic tradition.

The story remains the same in principle. Hansel and Gretel, played by Kate Howden and Callie Swarbrick, are half-starved by drunken Dad, Alex Otterburn and toiling Mum, Claire Filer.

They set out on a quest for food, shadowed by half a dozen hangers-on.

After a number of adventures, they fall upon a gingerbread house packed with sweetmeats but presided over by a Witch, Jane Monari. She threatens to eat the children but good triumphs.

All of this is delivered in slangy modern English with gusto and has the ability to entrance children and amuse adults.

The lasting impression though is of a company that might well have a few stars of the future hidden in its ranks, with those named all delightful singers and competent performers.