Writer: Louis Lovett
Director: Muireann Ahern and Louis Lovett
Music: Nico Brown and Louis Lovett
Reviewer: David Doyle
Theatre Lovett is a Dublin Theatre Festival staple and, with its fourth outing at the festival, it’s easy to see why. This time around the company uses the story of Hansel and Gretel to create a theatre piece that oozes atmosphere. The True Story of Hansel and Gretel isn’t simply a retelling of the story made famous by the Grimm Brothers. Instead it takes the elements of that story, as well as from other versions of the tale, and fuses them together to create a new take on a well-known tale, and manages to inject it with new life.
As much for adults as younger audiences, the piece doesn’t shy away from the darker elements of the story and creates a menacing atmosphere. The early emergence of the cannibalistic witch framed in the windows above the stage sets a tone of unease that is present throughout the narrative, and intensifies as the older Hansa and Greta travel into the forest alone and encounter the ominous Stranger, played by Raymond Keane.
It’s Keane’s character, who speaks of society’s constant desire for ‘more’, that grounds the show. It’s one of the contemporary messages at the heart of the tale and. coupled with an exploration of the prisons of our own making that we put our children in, there’s a strong contemporary element within the piece. It is the blend of the modern and the classic that is a real hallmark of the production. Drawing on the strong Germanic roots of the story, and melding them with more modern gestures to the work of Severin Fiala, and Veronika Franz, and with a thoroughly modern message, a new life is breathed into this classic tale and that’s the great strength of the piece.
The show isn’t merely a polemic on modern failings, though, it’s also a rousing and thoroughly enjoyable piece of theatre. With a strong ensemble of 16 and backed by wonderful live music, the show is a constant pleasure to watch. The show makes wonderful use of the space, with action happening across several levels of the theatre, and the constant shifting of focus that brings constantly engages the audience and helps create an atmosphere of being in the piece rather than just watching it. This coupled with live music and singing creates an intriguing and immersive world that the audience is drawn into from the outset.
The constantly shifting world of the show, helped by Zia Holly’s clever set design and wonderfully atmospheric lighting, mirrors that constantly shifting nature of the piece itself, which at times feels like a series of vignettes rather than a straightforward narrative. There are some brief moments that feel like ideas without the security of a strong structure, however, those moments are brief and never detract from the deft theatricality on show. This is a tale with no real happy ending, but it’s one that certainly leaves you wanting more.
Runs until October 11 2015 | Image: Ros Kavanagh