Hansel & Gretel

Colette Lennon as the Sugar Witch - Hansel & Gretel at the MAC, Belfast

Buy a ticket to see Hansel & Gretel and for your money you’ll get a virtual compendium of fairytale and fantasy characters: Three Little Pigs, Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, Little Red Riding Hood, Awesome Man and Fantasti-Girl.

Director Rhiann Jeffrey and writers Stephen Beggs and Simon Magill have chucked most of the familiar storyline out of the window in favour of a scenario that chimes with today’s austere economic climate but with a fun-filled exit route.

Rosie Barry and debutant Michael Drake are well cast as the siblings, he a nerdy know-all, she a sensible girl who gets things done. Hit by redundancy, their clueless parents (Louise Matthews and Keith Lynch) decide to make this the perfect Christmas and drag the children out on a credit-financed shopping spree.

Rosie Barry & Michael Drake as Hansel & Gretel - The MAC, Belfast 2017

But when the shopping centre is hit by an electric storm, the outing turns very surreal and the hard-working cast have their work cut out in switching niftily between roles.

With Hansel in her sticky clutches, Colette Lennon’s leather-clad Sugar Witch cuts loose on Garth McConaghie’s rocky score though technical glitches do not do full justice to her strong voice.

It is a delight to see Richard Croxford in such fine fettle as a traditional green clad Santa and a scarily lifelike Big Bad Wolf, playing a pivotal part in the climactic battle between good and evil.

When order is restored the Sugar Witch has melted away and the family Christmas idyll is charmingly delivered by Barry at the piano.

Runs until 7 January.

Edited version published in The Stage – 1 December 2017

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