Brighton Fringe 2012
Three very talented and versatile capable performers, Sophie Carmichael, Danny Lawson and Freya Wynn Jones bring their own unique version of Hansel and Gretel to the Fringe with plenty of interaction and even a change of performance space!
We enter a room in the Friends’ Meeting House, with Gretel already onstage, ground level, surrounded by a charming soft coloured set. A simple game warms up the audience and gets interaction going. There’s no neon or garish colours here, and we know we are in for a pastel-shade treat,
Children and adults alike are engaged from the first moment in what is essentially the tale of Hansel and Gretel nested inside Teapo Theatre’s own approach to children’s theatre. There’s a place for the children to sit on mats at the front, closest to the action, but also rows of seats behind, for those a little more shy who want to sit with their adults.
The set is a real strongpoint. Gentle shades take us into a nostalgically styled story feel. But this jars a little with some of the spoken accents and some of the idiom that is sometimes far too contemporary. These performers know how to deliver and keep the children’s attention. The glockenspiel music is warm and welcoming. The mood is perfect of drawing us into story, but occasionally we are thrown back into the now with some lazily framed delivery. Get that more consistent and the story will light up.
Hansel takes us into a world of imagination, and the games are led well and gently bring audience involvement. Many of the children stayed fully engaged from start to finish.
Here we have a show that reaffirms the importance of play and the imagination, we are a welcome million miles away from X boxes and TV.
There’s an intriguing lighting wash – a blend of natural afternoon light from uncurtained and soft white spots create a gorgeous golden glow on stage.
This is a promising children’s show from a group I think has much potential to step even higher and further. It has some lovely surprises which I won’t spoil for you, suffice to say they are bold. At one point the show itself moves outside and we go with it. As it stands this show will keep your under fives happy for an hour. And they’ll get three well realised characters, believable, and a story that hold the attention.
A plate becomes a magical portal to a magical land, just for children, a realm of our happiest imaginations, even toys made of chocolate ! A stellar moment was a beautifully sung duet in the outdoor garden (The Forest) accompanied by a cello. And the gingerbread house is a sight to behold. Elements of revolting-esque Roald Dahl are fun and get laughs and "ewws" from children and adults alike.
This is a production full of playful ideas, traditional devices and capable performances. It’s a bit over-busy as a production and would benefit from some simplification. Less would be more but there’s still a delightful atmosphere pitched perfectly at the audience age. I’ve seen a lot of children’s theatre recently that seems to be more in an adult dialogue with itself or is pitched at the young-teen toddler generation. Not this production. This show addresses itself in its script, design and staging to the real child in all children, and the child that never truly dies in adults. Keep it more simple faith with the timeless tale of Hansel and Gretel and this will be something special. It currently suffers from a bit too much over-elaboration which is a shame as there are many moments of pure and simple storytelling and Fairytale magic.
Another big strength is the use if simple props – they bring scrunched up newspaper to life and generate easy and sustained fascination among the youngest children. What more could you ask from a children’s show.
I love the simplicity at the core of this production and its "join in" spirit. A book becomes a bird and one child’s mouth dropped open at the miracle.
The background music is appropriate and evocative music doesn’t need to play in the background for too long – it has more impact when used more sparingly. They mostly get this right.
Step even more into storytelling characters, drop a little of their home-selves which creep in a little too much and we’ve hit something truly special on our hands. As it is, it’s still well worth taking your youngest children to.
If you are expecting a classic telling of Hansel and Gretel you won’t get it. But you’ll certainly get plenty of traditional story spirit. The story is there and the essence of it is held safe in rhe capable hands of Teapot Theatre. A show aimed at children, not "kids". Take yours along.