HANSEL AND GRETEL: Kneehigh, touring

Kneehigh Theatre on tour
Runs: 2h 15m, one interval

Review: Rod Dungate, Warwick Arts Centre, 26 11 10

Energetic, but lacks focus.

Kneehigh has gained quite a reputation for itself through its quirky performance style. An anarchic energy rules, irreverent humour, acting jokes and a lively, imaginative invention.

This is all present in HANSEL AND GRETEL in abundance – from the engineer-in-embryo Gretel to the wailing Mother, from puppet chicken to saggy-boobed witch. And they are engaging and charming.

Yet I sense something is becoming lost – here and in other recent shows. Kneehigh seem to have forgotten that there is a purpose behind their jestering – namely story-telling. HANSEL AND GRETEL has lost focus in it’s narrative drive and individual, dramatic moments – instants in time when we need to be drawn into the tale to be changed – go for nothing. The result is amusing, but it’s emasculated theatre.

It’s all such a shame because there is great potential for a funny and moving tale. The Mother, hungry, finding a worm and eating it is perfect – in equal measures humorous and disgusting. And her despair at what she has become is terrific. But why does the show skate so easily over the parents’ shock at their deliberately losing their children in the woods? Here is the potential for great story-telling.

Or the ending. The witch returning from the flames is quite funny. But how funny and terrifying it could have been if carefully choreographed with an eye to clown, theatricality and horror.

Pity, pity, pity. Kneehigh is fast becoming a caricature of itself.

Joanna Holden: Gretel
Chris Price: Hansel
Edith Tankus: Mother / The Bird
Carl Grose: Writer / Father / Witch
Benji Bower: Musician / Wilhelm
TJ Holmes: Musician / Johann
Mike Shepherd: Director
Simon Harvey: Assistant Director
Emma Rice: Choreographer
Stu Barker: Co-Composer
Ian Ross: Musical Director / Co-Composer
Michael Vale: Designer
Rob Higgs Mechanical Sculptor
Sarah Wright: Puppetry Consultant
Jason Barnes: Sound Designer
Mike Gunning Lighting Designer

2010-11-27 22:34:42

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