FamilyFeaturedFestive 19/20PantomimeSouth East

Hansel and Gretel? (A Postmodern Pantomime): Brighton Open Air Theatre 

Reviewer: Simon Topping

Writer: Luke R Francis

Director: Will Mytum

Director Malcolm Sixsmith (Douglas Rutter) strides onto the stage, with the energy and delivery of a motivational speaker, akin to Tony Robbins.  He welcomes his audience to the rehearsals of Hansel and Gretel and apologises profusely, for tonight he is more than one actor down, and needs an audience member to step in for the role of Hansel.  Step in the shy, but game, Bill (Antonia Draper) who is nervously happy to be part of the production.  The run-through now begins, leading to the first parody song – “Tonight” by the Black Eyed Peas.

On stage with the newbe is Toni (Jade Kennedy) playing Gretel and Simon (Dafydd Weeks) playing a multitude of characters including: Dragon Wolf, the lead character’s evil stepmother, Nefaria, and the Wicked Witch of the Woods.  As the Panto continues we see Hansel and Gretel cook and clean for their evil stepmother, who insists they cook her golden mushrooms, while she sings along to a remade version of “Chandelier” by Sia.

Weeks is a fabulous panto Dame. A cross between Cruella De Vil, Joan Collins and Bet Lynch from Coronation Street, he owns the stage as he performs. It is probably as the ludicrously funny, Dragon Wolf, where he shines the most; a beast who turns away from his bloodthirsty nature to become Vegan, a very “Brighton” creature indeed.

The rest of the cast produce entertaining characters too.  Rutter is very funny as the frenetic director, he performs with boundless energy, like David Tennet’s Dr Who, on steroids.  Kennedy and Draper play out an awkward, burgeoning romance, as Bill and Toni, with lots of well timed comedy; there is a great deal of onstage chemistry between them.

As the play continues there are some great jokes that have the crowd laughing heartily.  There is also a small bit of topical satire and splash of audience participation, in the panto tradition.  Oh no there isn’t!  Oh yes there is!

As the night unfolds, Sixsmith begins to lose control of his creation and anarchy takes over, in an overwhelmingly cheerful way. Bill and Toni begin to fall in love and the Panto becomes a complete “mash up” of stories and styles. Having the panto as a play within a play is a good way to ironically comment on the genre and garner more laughs along the way, which this production does well.

It is a festive feast to watch, lots of fun, with fabulous clap-along song and dance numbers, which will bring the most Grinchy of characters alive with joy.

Runs to 24th December (Not 21st)

The Reviews Hub Score

Christmas Silliness 

The Reviews Hub

The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.

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