Hansel and Gretel
Brunton Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 22 - Sat 26 May
The launch of the National Theatre for Scotland saw a series of ten events staged over a few days through the length and breadth of the country in February 2006, and left, no doubt, a lasting impression on many an audience. For all the quality of the work elsewhere, though, I can’t help but reflect that the greatest treat of all was the splendid Home East Lothian, a wonderful piece of 70s-set nostalgia based on Hansel and Gretel. Catherine Wheels, the company responsible, here appearing with the same show under a more appropriate title, bagged a hatful of nominations and awards at the subsequent Critics’ Award for Theatre in Scotland ceremony in June.
The site specific piece, much of which takes place outdoors, begins in a little 70s replica house, complete with Bay City Rollers records and episodes of The Goodies on the telly, before leading us through a dark and threatening forest, and finally to a splendid witch’s house, full of sweets and treats, and menacing cages and ovens. The pure primal scariness of the characters’ dilemmas, though, seemed undisturbing to the ankle-biting audience, and the joys of 70s nostalgia entranced the oldies present. For this critic it was the finest show of the season; its revival at the International Children’s Theatre Festival seems strong programming. Bring the kids, or if you don’t have any, abduct one - this piece is worth the consequences.