This is a children’s show but it’s also an absolute scream for adults. It’s very clever. Five actors play a delightful range of musical instruments, sing extremely well and act beguilingly. We see Hansel and Gretel, their Pa, and their Dad (it’s very modern – but actually it works) and a completely brilliant witch (apparently dressed by Chanel).
I loved the characterisation. It’s not easy for adults to play children but Abayomi Oniyide as Hansel and Stefanie Mueller as Gretel manage to convey the mannerisms of children without ever falling into parody.
We believe them. They carry puppets, used just here and there: little Hansel and little Gretel, which they are also very adept at manoeuvring, so the dolls have convincing body language.
The show opens with some Eastern European music being played on an accordion and guitar and we are told we are in Czechoslovakia.
The family – Hansel and Gretel and their parents, Nicholas (Martin Bonger who also plays double bass) and Nigel (the show’s musical director, David Osmond who also plays piano) are extremely hungry.
There is no food in the cupboards, or the tins, or the fridge. They have even eaten their pets. Nowhere else to go.
Nigel decides there is enough for two but not enough for four. The two children are to be left in the forest.
Describing the plan, Nicholas says with an MP’s demeanour: “It’s a long-term plan for a bright future.”
The children are abandoned in the forest – twice.
Eventually, they find a cottage made entirely of sweets. Gingerbread for the walls and spun sugar for the windows.
It’s inhabited by the rather chic witch played by Samantha Sutherland (who also plays saxophone and clarinet – and sings like an angel).
In an exemplary cast all offering bravura performances, Sutherland’s stands out. Children abandoned in the forest in winter, she says: “That’s not a life-style choice.”
The accomplished company New International Encounter (or NIE) directed by Alex Byrne with some delightful music from composer Elliot Davies offers some inspired modern twists to a traditional fairy tale.
This is a fun, fast-paced show with plenty of audience participation suitable for theatregoers of all ages.
Running until Sunday December 31, there are performances in the morning, afternoon, and early evening. Tickets £20 and £13 concessions.
Go to https://www.junction.co.uk/ or 01223 511511.
Hansel and Gretel is at Cambridge Junction until New Year’s Eve