REVIEW: Hansel and Gretel, Williamson Park, Lancaster

Hansel and Gretel, Joshua Miles and Jessica Baglow.
Hansel and Gretel, Joshua Miles and Jessica Baglow.

JOYCE BISHOP writes...If there is one thing for certain when you go along to The Dukes’ annual outdoor production...you can never be quite certain what will be served up.

So when they say that their latest walkabout offering is Hansel and Gretel, only the uninitiated would assume that they were going to get a straightforward re-telling of the Grimm fairytale.

What the company did serve up as the audience of about 500 strolled from one outdoor set to another in Williamson Park, was a cast of characters that spanned about a half a dozen different fairy stories.

So, oddly, Rumplestiltskin was there too, with the ever-popular Gareth Cassidy injecting his own brand of comedy into the character, and so was Goody Two Shoes, the fairy from Sleeping Beauty, and Red Riding Hood, in a cameo appearance at the end.

And then there was Hero The Frog Princess, who, with a little gender-bending, nodded at the whole ‘all you need is a kiss from a handsome prince’ theme. And let’s be honest, if it’s laughs you are looking for, Shelley Atkinson brought the house down as she stumped about the set in her lumpy green costume with a performance that brought to mind Julie Walters as Mrs Overall. Fabulous!

There were other storybook escapees too – including a vegetarian wolf who occasionally forgot his manners when there was a bit of flesh to hand, and the delightful Puss the Cat, elegantly played by Ella Vale.

It is all good fun – it always is – but there were moments when I wondered whether I was the only one who has not only lost the plot but sincerely wished they would stick to the plot.

Yes, it would be a dull production with just Hansel and Gretel, and yes, it was clever, weaving in different elements from different stories, but it captured me most when it focussed on the brother and sister.

In the end though, the cast delivered a great family show and, thanks to a menacing performance by Polly Lister as The Witch, one with a few essential scary bits too!