Hansel and Gretel and More Tales From The Forest
The Dukes, Lancaster
Williamson Park, Lancaster
Oh, let’s have more of this! Last night was full of wonder and magic as a capacity audience came to Williamson Park for this year’s promenade performance.
Magnificent clouds above us, yet the few spots of rain were barely noticed as we picked up the story of Hansel and Gretel deep in The Dell.
The teenage twins, father and glamorous stepmother were on the way to the big City where their father had the chance of work. Hungry, Hansel and Gretel were sent to forage for food but could find little. Gretel’s skills were tested and the food cooked over a fire was inedible. Father settled the children down to sleep with a story and once they were asleep he and the stepmother crept off and left the children.
When the children awoke, the parents were long gone, but Hansel had left a trail of breadcrumbs back to their old cottage. They were about to start back when the first of Zosia Wand’s magical creations appeared, Sydney the Swan, finishing off the last of the crumbs.
Infuriated, Hansel fires a stone at Sydney with his catapult and breaks Sydney’s arm (wing). Gretel calms things down and together, Hansel, Gretel and Sydney head off to find their way out of the forest and to find their father.
Slowly, the audience moves from The Dell to The Gorge where we meet a very cultured Wolf, a real gentleman. Now a vegetarian, he has reformed after his brush with Red Riding Hood. There is still a whiff of danger about this handsome beast.
Tension is rising when Hero The Frog comes in on her tricycle. What a wonderful character, a strident, feminist frog. The pace moves up a notch when Hansel is seduced away by the whiles of Puss the Cat.
Off we go to the next location, The Council Chamber—or, rather a fairground of delight ruled by a very vampish Witch with the help of her staff, Good Fairy, Rumpelstiltskin and the Magpie.
Something for everyone here: audience participation, fairground fun, doubles entendre and fishnet tights. The witch senses and sniffs out Hansel and Gretel, who arrive, Hansel brought in by Puss followed by Gretel. The gullible Hansel enters the Witch’s house. Captured!
Stroll down to the damp and gloomy woods to the Witch’s lair, complete with large oven. The Witch’s cronies turned out to be held by blackmail and coercion and, with sympathy and help from Gretel, they all work together to thwart the Witch who gets cooked. Hurrah! With the Witch out of the way we move off through the magically lit woods to find Hansel and Gretel’s father. And we find him.
The Lake has been transformed and there is the bereft and confused father. Our feminist Hero the Frog doesn’t believe that a mere man can be of use but, with the help of Sydney the Swan, Hansel and Gretel are reunited with their father, and he with them, cue for tissues and all ends well.
I would encourage you to make your way to Williamson Park; this show is wonderful and magical. The characters are well rounded—okay they may not be straight from the Brothers Grimm, but they are drawn with great skill and with many references for the adults to puzzle over as they make the links and see the humour.
Thank you Zosia Wand for taking liberties with the Brothers Grimm, and Joe Sumsion’s for top-notch direction. The music, composed by Kieran Buckeridge, is sublime, lighting and sound from Brent Lees is magical.
The cast, only seven of them, with Jessica Baglow as Gretel, Joshua Miles as Hansel and the rest of the characters played by Shelley Atkinson, Gareth Cassidy, Guy Hargreaves, Polly Lister and Ella Vale are excellent. My favourites? Shelley Atkinson’s Hero the Frog, Polly Lister as the vamping Witch and Ella Vale as a very sexy and lithe Puss the Cat.
Finally, the setting is awesome with fantastic views across Morecambe Bay and into the Lakeland fells. What else can I ask for? I didn’t get midged either.
Reviewer: Denis W McGeary