Take your favourite childhood story but turn it into an opera. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Well, I believe that the ‘Scottish opera’ took these two worlds and fused them together perfectly for any age to enjoy. Indulge in the breathtaking vocals and you might just find some darkness hidden behind the innocent sugar-coated façade.
A mother tired of her son and her daughter misbehaving sends them off into the forest to pick berries, not knowing the dangers lurking within. Hansel and Gretel were taught to never speak to strangers. Although who could blame them for giving into the temptation of endless marshmallows, lollipops and pies galore! If only that wasn’t followed by getting kidnapped by a witch…
The cast is made up of nine actors, four of them making up the ‘ensemble’ of the performance. As beautiful as opera singing is, it is sometimes hard to understand. The small cast (along with the non-naturalistic acting) makes the story a lot more digestible. Kitty Whately (Hansel) and Rhian Lois (Gretel) really captured the beauty of their characters’ child innocence, in contrast to Nadine Benjamin (Mother and The Witch) who wonderfully portrayed her demanding, authoritative roles.
‘Hansel and Gretel’ had no permanent set design opting for removable set pieces and props which differentiated the different locations throughout the show. Such as branches entangled in fairy lights to display the forest or the sweet-filled trolley later turning into a fireplace for the witch’s house. There was nothing remarkable about the props, however I was subtly surprised in regard to the costumes. For example, the Dew Fairy was sporting a lilac colour pallete topped with pearls, sparkly glasses and wings complimenting her mythical nature contrasting the ensemble who were presented in black cloaks covering their bodies and faces displaying the mystery and secrets hidden within the forest we have yet to find out.
The truly show-stopping factor of this performance are the vocals and music. Situated behind the end-on stage was the orchestra conducted by David Parry. During the entirety of the one hour and forty-minute show the music never stopped leaving me utterly immersed into this brand-new world. The vocals were on point and complimented each other wonderfully. Towards the end of act two during the witch’s scene I was struck hard by the polarity between Nadine Benjamin’s singing voice and one-off speaking lines, these moments really secured her characters dominance above the defenceless children.
As mentioned at the beginning of the performance by Daisy Evans (Director), ‘Hansel and Gretel’ reminded us why live theatre is valuable during these unpredictable times and how desperate actors are to get back onto the stage. Overall, I think this interpretation of a classic childhood story was done to a high standard. It is definitely something interesting worth watching in the comfort of your own home. https://www.scottishopera.org.uk/shows/hansel-gretel/
Reviewer: Julia Panova
Reviewed: 13th February 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★