Hansel and Gretel at The Spring, Havant REVIEW: ‘A worthy alternative to panto’

Hansel and Gretel by Lyngo Theatre is at The Spring Arts Centre in Havant, December 22-30, 2018. Picture by Alex Brenner.
Hansel and Gretel by Lyngo Theatre is at The Spring Arts Centre in Havant, December 22-30, 2018. Picture by Alex Brenner.
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If you were to boil the essence of Hansel and Gretel down to its bones - poverty, child abandonment and cannibalism - it would make for an unlikely children’s show.

But from this most grim of Grimm’s fairy tales, Lyngo Theatre have created a captivating show.

A two-hander, Francesca Anderson plays Gretel, the step-mother and one of the witches, while her colleague Adam Jessop plays the woodcutter father and the other witch.

The changes in character are well handled, so that even younger audience members could keep track of who is being portrayed.

The lighting is atmospheric and the stage is filled with rustic-looking props that are used to great effect throughout - whether it’s in bed at the family home, lost in the woods or the climactic scenes with the witches.

The show is billed as being for ages four and over, and there were certainly a few very young children in the opening day’s audience. The attention of our two, who are at the very bottom of that scale, wandered occasionally, but the engaging songs and imaginative staging soon brought them right back. 

And when the children stumble on a house made of sweets and encounter the witches – Anthrax and Listeria – our boys are riveted. Comic rather than threatening, Anderson and Jessop are clearly having a ball with the characters.

This is no panto, but the actors do break the fourth wall occasionally, notably when the witches sing about the ‘sweet little children’ and prowl the audience.

If you’re looking for a suitable alternative to panto for younger children, this is a worthy choice. It entertains without patronising its younger patrons, but there is something for everyone to enjoy in this lovingly staged show.

Until December 30.