Scottish Ballet: Wee Hansel and Gretel (4 stars)

Scottish Ballet: Wee Hansel and Gretel

credit: Rimbaud Patron

Introducing dance to wee ones

Wee Hansel and Gretel is a triumph of the imagination, and a great way of hooking little kids into the world of dance, truncated to just one hour. With a gorgeous set by Gary Harris, which goes from spookily evocative woods in neon green and purple to a sliding, split level gingerbread house with UV-lit sweet treats, it's a tale with many twists and surprises. There's even 'smoke' billowing from the chimney and a moon which goes from full and white to pink and crescent as the children are in danger.

Choreographed by Scottish Ballet's artistic director Christopher Hampson, it is narrated by cheeky, flat cap wearing James Siggens, a recent graduate from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. He's an impish presence throughout, and with the introduction of interactive elements, he gets the children on-side from the start, making them play hide and seek, asking if they believe in magic and encouraging shout-outs to their favourite sweets.

As for Hansel and Gretel, the pairing of Constant Vigier and Alice Kawalek is an inspired one. They're a sweet enough pair of siblings, but never enough to induce a toothache. It's Gretel who saves the day – she is feisty and headstrong; whereas her brother, ever clutching his teddy bear, is a bit of a timid milksop. Their pas de deux scenes together reinforce ideas of childhood abandonment, and are actually rather poignant. She can also be quite mean to him at times, as evinced by the scene where she and The Witch take his teddy from him and refuse to give it back.

Madeline Squire as The Witch is the epitome of fairytale duality: she looks like a magical fairy in her sparkling white gown, but is really evil. Squire plays her more for laughs though, with an itchy wig and scabby slippers, shuffling around the house like a bag lady. Even as she meets her demise, the tone is cartoonish, rather than terrifying.

But that's not to say there are no scares here. There's a pinch of Gothic noir in Hampson's direction, where villains lurk in shadowy places. The final scene is genuinely gripping, playing on childhood nightmares.

All told, the malevolence is sprinkled with icing sugar. For thrills, laughs and shivers for the whole family, Wee Hansel and Gretel really takes the cake.

Reviewed at Theatre Royal, Glasgow. Now touring.

Scottish Ballet's Wee Hansel & Gretel

Specially adapted kids version of the fairy tale ballet.