Tuesday, 22 October 2019

DANCE REVIEW: Hansel And Gretel - The Lowry Theatre, Salford.


Tonight's piece of children's theatre was a contemporary reworking of "Hansel and Gretel". Both in terms of the storyline and the playing around with form and style in this kind of theatre.

It is a common German fairytale by the Brothers Grimm. Hansel and Gretel are a young brother and sister who find themselves lost in the woods and kidnapped by a witch living in a house comprised of confectionery and cake. Something they definitely should not eat. In this version, the trail of breadcrumbs was abandoned, Hansel and Gretel had moved from Africa to London and became lost there amid the overwhelming sounds, smells, and sights.

Vicki Igbokwe, the choreographer, has put her trademark style on this classic storyline by fusing the following styles of dance together: African, Contemporary, Waacking, Vogue, and House. This was the only positive element of the show to be honest. It introduced a vibrant culture to young children in the audience and the non-verbal expressiveness was important in reminding young people to show how they feel. There was a gentle fluidity to the movements and a lovely agility occasionally. The dance language was playfully child-like.

Dancing aside, it's a scenario where the creatively ambitious show ideas read well on paper but the execution didn't work. Mainly because the whole thing didn't feel like "Hansel and Gretel" until they got lost and kidnapped in the house of sweet things. Even then, it was only just like the original story. Instead of the witch character, it was a floating cushion though? Why?

At first, the silent interaction between the main characters was a decent start to the show, until they tried to interact with the audience. This particular audience on this specific night appeared hesitant to communicate back with the actors, apart from one or two children. The gesturing, miming, and non-verbal interaction just brought mixed messages. Should it be that we interact silently too? To shout out over the quiet interaction and music onstage would surely disrupt it? What were the class rules, so to speak? At one point, the house lights came on and the excessive pointing made it appear as though they were asking the children to come onstage, that wasn't the case. Together with the pre-recorded script, I felt like all this inhibited and undermined the natural interplay between audience and performer, which they would have received with a different approach.

The main moral of this tale was to, 'be brave and think on your feet'. A relevant, motivational, and urgent message to get out there however it was repeated too much word for word. I think the children could have picked up on the message without needing to hear it regularly. In addition, Lucy Sierra's colourful "Jungle Gym" set was more for nursery kids than the ages of the children who actually came to watch it. I can appreciate the experimentation and what it was trying to do but it wasn't successful.

Reviewer - Sam Lowe
on - 21/10/19

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