Hansel and Gretel (Opera North) – Review

Opera North’s production of #Hansel and #Gretel is unlike anything you imagine it to be. Far from its dark #fairy #tale roots, comes Engelbert Humperdinc’s #adaptation that brings the antiquated story into the 21st century.

Directed by Edward Dick, the contemporary production challenges the expectations of its #audience. The opera is set in the present day, which is already a break from tradition. Rather than a home on the outskirts of a forest, the scene in which the audience are introduced to its two protagonists is set in a high rise block of flats. With peeling wallpaper and relatively bare stage setup, the setting scene is depicted as seemingly dishevelled.

The modern day, maybe even the critique of modern times, is demonstrated through the injection of modernity seen through the characters’ behaviour. Modern dress are obvious and, once again, divert initial expectations.

Furthering this diversion comes the progression of the stage setup throughout the course of the performance. In a ‘Blair Witch Project’ cinematic style, the scenes of the forest are projected onto the existing stage set up. By doing so, the experience of #Hansel and #Gretel wandering the forest, although enchanting, becomes confusing and consequently distorts a coherent audience understanding. This prompts the audience to question whether they are experiencing reality or simply a dream-like and euphoric state.

In addition to this, the family unit parallels this sense of disparity. Instead of a hardworking woodsman, the father of Hansel and Gretel is an abusive drunk. The mother, played by Susan Bullock also plays The Witch, thus blurring the boundaries of family and displaying the dichotomy that femininity envelops.

The initial reaction to all the efforts to transform such a well known and well loved story is mass confusion. Although theatre goers often watch performances to suspend disbelief, it has to be said that not all of those who attended seemed too impressed.

The beginning of the performance saw the audience sat waiting in darkness for what felt like at least 10 minutes. Despite the orchestra’s beautiful accompaniment, the atmosphere was uneasy and agitated – what were we to do whilst we waited?

This sense of confusion and discontent was widespread and it was noted that after the interval the audience members who returned to their seats seemed fewer in number.

Despite this, one thing that is worthy of praise is the talent that the performers exude. The singing by Gretel in particular was memorable as well the accompanying sounds from the orchestra hidden below.

Whilst the show is not considered a must-see to us at TNT, it does indeed ignite curiosity and may therefore excite those who seek the modern adaptations of #classic tales.

TNT Arts & Culture

Photo Credit: The Lowry


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