For centuries, fairy tales have provided entertainment for children and adults alike; with fantasy-like books helping to engage the imagination of many. One very popular fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel, has always been considered one of the most popular children’s stories; but deep down there lies a more gruesome tale full of parental neglect, fear and tension.
Hansel and Gretel opened up at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre on the 14th June by the English National Opera and has already had crowds flocking to see it, and for good reason!
The opera, devised originally by Adelheid Wette and Englebert Humperdinck, has been softened somewhat. However, the English adaptation directed by Timothy Sheader still keeps a lot of the original dark nuances and ensures it remains deep, upsetting and mightily rich.
If you have ever been to the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, you will know that it is quite a sight to behold, and alongside Peter McKintosh’s colourful and impressive set, it really does stand out and draws you into the fairy tale that unfolds in front of you.
Hansel and Gretel, a pair of impoverished siblings are found in their rickety shack trying to distract themselves from their painful hunger. Finding them making mischief, their mother sends them out into the woods to forage for food. It does not take long for night to fall and for the brother and sister to become disoriented and even more hungry than before.
Coming back to McKintosh’s set, it wonderfully transforms in front of your very eyes and yet does not distract you from what is going on and settles beautifully into the surroundings of Regent’s Park. And as you would imagine, the gingerbread house looks just as edible as you would hope.
Act Three introduces us to the child-eating Witch (played by Alasdair Elliott) as he catches the children eating the house. Unlike the standard fairy tales, the Witch is more terrifying and creepier than you would imagine; looking deranged and dancing and prancing around the stage.
Gretel (played by Susanna Hurrell) and Hansel (Rachel Kelly) have incredible energy between them and their vocals are out of this world; the whole rhythm and heartbeat of the performance are carried by the pair. Despite being an hour and a half long, no note was missed, and every vocal was beautiful. Rosie Aldridge playing the mother is as dominant as the role would suggest and helps to be the backbone of the on-stage family, and Duncan Rock playing the father also gives a solid performance.
Ben Glassberg’s orchestra is spellbinding and every note whispered across the air helps to really draw you in and helps keep the musical aspects tied in with the visuals of the performance.
All in all, it was a performance that had a mix of charming brilliance and yet a dark side that kept you on the edge of your seat; perfect for a summer’s evening in the open air of one of the capitals best-loved parks.
Book your tickets here: Open Air Theatre