Writer: Zosia Wand
Director: Joe Sumsion
Reviewer: May Mellstrom
Theatres do come in all shapes and sizes but Williamson Park in Lancaster may just be the most spectacular of them all. With stunning views over Lancaster and Morecambe Bay the park is the perfect setting for The Dukes walkabout theatre productions, this year a retelling of Hansel &Gretel with ‘More Tales’ from a number of other well known fairytale creatures liberally sprinkled throughout.
With Hansel &Gretel lost in the forest, the audiences are invited to journey with them as they search to find the way home to their father. There is something particularly charming about watching their tale unfold while surrounded by the trees and hearing recorded and real birdsong intermingling.
Writer Zosia Wand does not shy away from the darker elements of the Hansel &Gretel story but also fills the script with humour and fairytale references both children and adults will understand. When the characters collide, it feels completely believable that Red Riding Hood’s Wolf could be friends with The Frog Princess, or that Rumpelstiltskin could find himself accidentally working for the Witch.
The characters are brought to life by a cast of seven, some playing multiple rôles and all successfully engaging the audience throughout. It is easy to root for Jessica Baglow’s kind and courageous Gretel and Gareth Cassidy and Shelley Atkinson get a lot of laughs as Sydney the upper class Swan and Hero, a feminist frog!
As we move through different areas of the park, the locations nicely reflect the mood of each scene. The tone shifts at the ‘House of Fun’ so suddenly that it temporarily feels like a different show, but it is not long before the location lives up to its name. It is the fourth scene however that is a particular highlight, presided over by Polly Lister’s magnificently malevolent Witch.
As the characters delve deeper into the forest, the audience follows. Children’s voices whisper the way and designers Alison Heffernan and Brent Lees conjure a magical atmosphere as the sun sets and light begins to fade. There is music too from Kieran Buckeridge, who has written both evocative melodies and memorable showstoppers.
Running at approximately three hours it is a lengthy show and the younger members of the audience may begin to tire. However both the action and the audience are kept moving enough to ensure that the scenes feel they flow seamlessly and one barely notices the time passing at all.
An enchanting production that captures the imagination of young and old alike, Hansel &Gretel truly is a show for everyone and in the beautiful Williamson Park there are few better ways to spend a summer evening.
Runs until 16th August