HANSEL AND GRETEL
by Marcello Chiarenza English adaptation by Patrick Lynch music by Carlo Cialdo Capelli.
The Met Market Street To 24 December 2009.
Runs 1hr 10min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 19 December.
Concentrated Christmas production with forceful impact.
A cut-down, two-person version of well-known folk-tales like Hansel and Gretel isn’t normally my idea of fun. It makes economic sense for a small-scale venue like the Met, but the doubling and other strategies needed when the same two actors are playing multiple parts and trying to impress as a range of characters each, easily threatens to short-change young viewers as writer, director and performers struggle with the imposed limitations.
But Lyngo Theatre, whose expert way with theatre for the young is evident in their work, has devised a way to make maximum impact with limited means; so much that the two-hander format becomes a virtue.
It helps focus in a show aimed at 4+, as actors Amy Michaels and Robin Brockway become guides through the story; not as narrators but by quick character changes. A couple of alterations in elements of costume and a change of stance move Brockway between Hansel and his good-natured but unassertive father.
More noticeably, because the contrast’s greater, Michaels’ bright and lively Gretel physically sags and vocally deepens into a stepmother whose manner any child would recognise as chilly-going-on-freezing. Both actors later function as owners of the sweetly luring sweetie-house, she with a trail of flame-red hair, he under a sort of Davy Crockett hat needing a severe trim.
Scenery’s limited, but economically used; principally a couple of mobile seats with front coverings used as beds. Hansel and Gretel lie together as brother and sister; the parents’ bed-talk is colder with a sense of estrangement provided as the ‘beds’ wheel at angles to each other, joined only narrowly at the head.
Hansel recurrently calls himself stupid when his plans fail. It’s clear where the low self-esteem comes from, as their Stepmother repeatedly uses the term about the children. Dark though the setting is, it’s this constant step-parental put-down that marks the children’s real deprivation. A contrastingly hopeful light comes with a few moments of humour, but mostly through the resilience and resourcefulness shown, first by Hansel with his tracking devices, then Gretel as enforced Witches’ skivvy, in asserting their active roles in the story.
Gretel/Mother/Witch: Amy Michaels.
Hansel/Father/Witch: Robin Brockway.
Director: Patrick Lynch.