Review: Hansel and Gretel at The Rose Theatre Kingston

It is that time of year again when the Christmas trees are up and lights lit, children are on school holidays and parents are looking for the right panto to entertain them. This year The Rose Theatre Kingston has chosen Hansel & Gretel as its Christmas production – a story first published by the Grimms in 1812, but given a modern update that keeps it fresh and engaging.

Featuring young actors from the Rose Youth Theatre alongside professional actors, this production is full of humor and adventure. It is listed as suitable for ages 5 and up, but has moments the whole family can enjoy.

A plot refresher for anyone who (somewhat impressively) doesn’t know the story: the mayor of a small town is ever popular, as the town flourishes despite all surrounding towns suffering from a terrible famine. All he has to do to keep the food flowing is send a regular stream of children into the forest promising them a better life in the city on the other side.

Orphaned siblings Hansel and Gretel are taken into the forest by the ‘Huntsman’ – full of questions and more importantly, hope. The biggest question is who is Circe, the witch that lives deep in the dark forest and has cursed all the towns.

The young orphans find themselves in the ‘Grub’ land of the fairies, where the characters of fairytales and fairies live. Some fairies have taken refuge in books, but there are not many happy endings for them. The citizens of Grub sing “The truth is pretty Grimm” as they hide out from the witch.

Will Hansel and Gretel make it through the forest, and can they break the witch’s curse in time to save Grub, their town and all the others? These are the main questions to be answered over the course of the show.

The forest covers the entire stage and extends across the pit area where some of the audience sit on cushions. The backdrop of the stage is a giant book, with pages that move throughout the story – this is narrated by some helpful (not real) fairies.

Written by Ciaran McConville and directed by Rosie Jones this production is full of magic and that magic existence is at the very heart of this story. As the Huntsman says “Magic… I seen it. The good and the bad. They say children are born with it and grow out of it like old skin. But some keep it all their lives.”

The cast and crew have done an amazing job of creating a world of wonder and magic for the audience to get lost in. With songs by Eamonn O’Dwyer so catchy you’ll be singing along in no time, it is the rival of any West End performance.

Hansel and Gretel at the Rose Theatre Kingston runs until 6 January.

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