“Hansel and Gretel“
Reviewer: Selina Chong
Performance: 1 July 2017
The one word I would use to describe Players Theatre’s Hansel and Gretel is “lively”. There is plenty of movement and action onstage, the set is visually arresting, and the puppetry work is engaging. I suppose that is to be expected for a production aimed at children and families.
In this retelling of the fairy tale, a crow is the narrator, a pair of wicked rabbits are the villains who lure the children to the gingerbread house, and an adorable gingerbread man is the main hero of the story. Much of the storytelling is done through puppetry, and the actors’ mastery of puppet work is commendable.
The set also complements the storytelling. In particular, the first view of the gingerbread house is magical: the oversized pieces of candy adorning the house look delectable, and effectively contrasts the danger and evil that’s found inside.
However, the show – which was staged as a part of the Opening Festival for Gateway Theatre – did experience several sound-related issues. The sound crew was a bit slow and the actors spoke without mic support on several occasions, and the witch’s voice sounded muffled for the second half of the show. I also feel that Caitanya Tan’s portrayal of the evil stepmother could have been better enunciated. My experience of her performance is a blur of slurred words broken by moans and melodrama.
What resonates with me is the production’s message that nothing is as it seems. The production turns conventions on their heads and depicts the villains as lovable bunnies. On the other hand, the crow – an omen of death – serves as the unlikely hero of the tale. Through the play, children are taught not to judge books by their covers or assume that cute bunnies will never lead them to death’s door.
The Q&A session after the performance also reinforced the theme and extended the discussion to theatre as a craft. In response to an inquisitive young member of the audience, the team recreated a scene involving a blazing oven and showed how each stage component – sound, light, props, actor – interacts with another to create a powerful, but ultimately imagined, event. It was a lovely reminder for me that the act of storytelling in theatre is really only completed in the mind of the viewer.
The performance brings to life a well-known fairy tale and could well be the first experience of theatre for many children in the audience. I believe Hansel and Gretel would successfully pique their interest and entice them to return to the theatre for more.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
HANSEL AND GRETEL by Players Theatre
30 June – 9 July 2017
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Selina loves the theatre and its ability to engage, enrapture, and entertain. The magic of the stage never ceases to create joy and wonder for her. The potential of the theatre to educate also dovetails with her teacher duties and she wishes more young people had time to watch a show instead of attend another tuition lesson.