Review: Hansel and Gretel, Derby Theatre

Picture by Robert Day

Derby Theatre has turned the much-loved fable Hansel and Gretel into a fiendish feast of merriment for the festive season.

Warmth and humour has been added to the dark heart of the original Grimm Brothers fairytale with a simply scrumptious set, a merry band of raucous rooks and a catchy set of songs, which together make it a perfect family show.

The fairytale tells the classic story of a family who, having hit on hard times, bicker and fall out. As a result Hansel and Gretel run away from their parents into the forest. 

Lost, starving and tired they cannot resist the temptation of the yummy treats on offer when they stumble across a Gingerbread House. 

Tricked inside by the wicked witch they discover, to their horror, her evil cannibalistic nature. 

The amiable, soon to be overgrown, Hansel, played by Craig Anderson is caged to be fattened up for the pot and feisty Gretel, played by Yana Penrose, is forced to become a slave.

Mike Kenny’s adaptation for Derby Theatre is pretty faithful to the original story with the charming addition of a ravishing Parliament of Rooks – a merry band of musicians who narrate the story via song and dance.

Picture by Robert Day

The colourful Steam Punk-style costumes, designed by Tim Heywood, are marvellous –  especially those worn by the witch and the rooks – and the stage set, by designer Neil Irish, is ingenious.

To overcome the technical challenge of transforming the iconic house of sweets into the witch’s creepy kitchen with a blazing cauldron couldn’t have been easy and the spectacular metamorphosis is probably the highlight of this wonderful show.

The whole cast, including the Young Company, are of the standard I have come to expect from a Derby Theatre production, sharp, savvy and oozing oodles of enthusiasm. 

Picture by Robert Day

I have to admit though that Christopher Price, as Ginger the Witch, was the star of the show for me. His musical number ‘Oh Boy’ was just brilliant. I would love to see that again and again.

If you haven’t already booked tickets do it now. This is the theatre’s best Christmas show yet and is a tribute to chief executive and artistic director Sarah Brigham.

The rest of the cast are Jack Alexander, as Ronald Rook; Elizabeth Eves, Mother; Tilly-Mae Millbrook, Appleby Rook; Jack Quarton, Father and Esme Sears, Belinda Rook.

The three Young Company teams are made up from Primrose Cole, Millie Denney, Thomas Moore, Freddie Phillips, Roxy Wright, Freya Youngman, Scarlett Allitt, Ariana Botchway, William Brown, Leo Fox-White, Madison Naylor, Lottie Stone, Rosie Austins, Jaiya Dhillon, Maisie Gore, Harry Tallis, George Thompson, Amelie Turner. Chaperones, Holly Hauri, Andy Mandoiu and Helena Rimmer.

The composer and sound designer is Ivan Stott and the lighting designer Emma Jones.

Hansel and Gretel at Derby Theatre can be seen until January 5. For tickets click here.

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