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Hansel and Gretal Southampton Mayflower

After playing Hansel in 2011 for my A level drama piece, 4 years later I was treated to a professional showing me how it is supposed to be done, but Hansel was not the only one to provide a brilliant performance.

The curtains were lifted and the magic begun, with no performers on stage but better yet a band below that would almost steal the show before it started. The Welsh National Opera (WNO) band was phenomenal throughout as our conductor, Lothar Koenigs, led them. Their excellence was a sign of things to come as we approached act one with anticipation and intrigue.

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We began the story with Hansel (Jurgita Adamonyté) complaining that he was hungry, whilst Gretel joined him in his woes as they were seated in their parents’ kitchen. The set design was simple, yet used to its full effect as it began wide; growing narrower the further it went back. The walls were a dull grey with minimal furniture to fill the room, which instantly showed the struggles of this family and allowed us to empathise with our lead characters from the absolute beginning.

The total interaction between Hansel and Gretel (Alish Tynan) throughout was the real key to this shows success. They worked excellently as a pair and easily allowed you to find them hilarious, lovable and engaging from the moment they took the stage. Their voices were superb, but it would be underselling their abilities as performers to simply talk about that; speaking of superb singing voices, their mother has returned home!

Miriam Murphy played the mother and her relationship with Hansel & Gretel provided us with an insight to a working class family dynamic, something that a large percentage of a stereotypical theatre audience would find intriguing and challenging to relate, creating a polarising opinion of her character. Enraged at the lack of work that her children have done, she would send them to the forest with orders to collect berries, all of this to their drunken fathers dismay.

The forest scene gave us our first insight into the two underlying themes of this production, greed and gluttony. The forest provided us with two wonderful, contradictory moments where we experience great laughter and an equally captivating act-finisher. They picked the berries and they shortly after scoffed them until the bowl was empty. A moment of elation soon turned into a moment of fear as they had realised that they lost their way. The prayer before they fall asleep was one of the most beautiful three minutes I had experienced on a stage and this was the point I became fully engrossed by the story.

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Even though The Dew Fairy (Meriel Andrew) and The Witch had very different volumes of stage time, they were both incredibly charismatic, which made them both superb characters even if they represented different morals. Adrian Thompson gives us the perfect villain as The Witch, her primary purpose to fatten up Hansel for herself and she played the role fantastically. The gingerbread house set gave us our first elaborate use of props, whether it was the cooking station or the oven, allowing us to indulge aesthetically to their surroundings.

Overall, the production was a masterpiece in my eyes, the minimal set design allowed us to appreciate the excellence of the band and the character interaction from the lead actors. Shows like this are why live theatre will always have a place in the art of performance. Thank you WNO for showing me how Hansel and Gretel was supposed to be performed.

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