Review: Hansel & Gretel, Tobacco Factory

8 12 2012

Tobacco Factory Theatre director Ali Robertson has three favourite ensemble companies. They are the RSC, somewhat unsurprisingly Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory, and New International Encounter (NIE), a company spanning the UK and Norway who were invited to make this year’s Christmas show at the North Street theatre.

Hansel and GretelHansel & Gretel may be a familiar fairytale, but this version is anything but familiar. This is a production where the audience are complicit in the goings-on as a character breaks out of character to explain what they, or their character, is thinking.

This is also a production where parallels can easily be drawn to these austere times that we live in. A Southville audience probably will not be down to their last onion skin or resorting to cannibalism  However, the troubles of our world in 2012 is certainly mirrored by the world created 200 years ago by the Brothers Grimm of hardship, pain and sacrifice.

Hansel and Gretel are played by Unai Lopez De Armentia and Stefanie Mueller, who as well as portraying their human form also portray puppet personas.

This means that on their way around the room collecting the stones Hansel has strategically dropped in order to find his way home after being abandoned in the forest, the puppets can high-five the children charged with their keeping.

The pillars in the Tobacco Factory Theatre can block sight lines and, like last year’s production of Cinderella, this was in the round. But here thanks to Mueller’s imaginative set design they were turned into tree trunks, with the solitary metal pillar left as the chimney of a wood burning stove.

From a pan-European company, language is a key element, with the cast from Spain to south Somerset often utilising their mother tongues, especially the blood curdling screams in Norwegian from Mia Hawk (above) as the evil step mother.

Being in the round, some lines are unfortunately lost. And the pace noticeably dips in he second half after a thundering start. But the skill of these actors made me often forget there were both human and puppet versions of our protagonists, in a witty and immensely enjoyable production from a company who deserve all their plaudits.

Hansel and Gretel

Hansel & Gretel, Tobacco Factory Theatre until Jan 19. Click here for more information.

This week in Bristol, December 3-9

3 12 2012

Monday: Total Permission, Watershed
The premiere of a documentary directed by Bristol-based John Durrant about projects from deaf and disabled artists as part of the Cultural Olympiad.

Tuesday: Christmas With LEDs On, At-Bristol
The first in a new series of adult-only evening events in At-Bristol, with a chance to explore the exhibits and join in with some Christmas-themed live science shows.

Tuesday – December 15: Yes, We Have No Bananas; Brewery Theatre
Based on oral histories from those who lived during the war years, the action takes place in a grocery shop in Weymouth during the lead up to D-Day.

Wednesday – January 13: Hansel & Gretel, Tobacco Factory Theatre
The Brothers Grimm story in a family-friendly producton from New International Encounter, with a mix of live music, clowning, humour, language and storytelling.

Thursday: Vive La Tour & Breaking Away, Mud Dock Deli
The first of a monthly series of bike-themed film nights at Mud Dock Deli on the first Thursday of the month; with a beer, pizza and two classic cycling films for £10.

Friday: Ellie Goulding, Bristol Academy
The Hereford-born singer-songwriter has left her folk stylings behind for second album Halcyon, which showcases a a more electro-pop infused sound.

Friday: Bristol Palestine Film Festival
This year’s festival focuses in on four villages in the West Bank, provides the opportunity to try free running and features speakers including Ken Loach.

Friday – December 21: Death & Treason, Rhyme & Reason; Bristol Old Vic
A night of childhood memories and adult interpretations which “explores the dark and debauched secrets of our most familiar childhood rhymes”.

Saturday: Fatboy Slim, Motion
Following Public Enemy and Annie Mac last month, the latest In:Motion presents Norman Cook, Mr Zoe Ball and one of the original superstar DJs.

Saturday: The Quarrymen, Thunderbolt
A gig featuring the original members of the skiffle band formed in 1956 at Quarry Bank School in Liverpool by John Lennon which became another band called the Beatles.