Hansel and Gretel (Platform, Glasgow)
Magical and truly unpatronising update of the Grimm Brothers' classic
If the Grimm Brothers had grown up in Easterhouse, their version of the cannibalistic horror story for kids, Hansel and Gretel, might have turned out slightly differently. In Platform’s magical, and truly unpatronising 2011 update, Gretel (Becki Gerrard) is a feisty wee thing, and a fan of her Slayer and Iron Maiden records, while Hansel (Geraldine Heaney) is a lovable geek, obsessed with synthesisers and anything remote controlled. Their father, the woodcutter is played by star-turn, Drew Wright, better known to the DIY music community as avant-folk singer/spoken word artist, Wounded Knee.
As far as the cast is concerned – that’s your lot. Besides a pair of cute woodland creatures with thick Weegie accents who deliver words of wisdom via video link, there are only the three of them up there onstage. But it’s enough to have the crowd, not just on the edge of their seats, but in many cases, bums fully separated from seats, on their feet, screaming at the stage.
Children are a notoriously tough crowd. So the instant tears that are blurted out as soon as the baddie (spoiler alert) comes onstage prove their disbelief is not just suspended, but hoisted up by an imaginary pulley to the rafters. Wright’s bandy-legged, green-wigged Witch is a genuine terror, swigging from a bottle of whisky and cursing the happy people that kill her booze buzz on a daily basis. There’s a hint of The Blair Witch Project to the creepy videotapes that show her muttering and biting bird’s heads off, so there is a loud cheer of relief when she eventually meets her fan-assisted end.
Special mention should also go to the impeccable soundtrack – with a live reworking of Tiffany’s ‘I Think We're Alone Now’ sitting comfortably alongside original songs by Drew Wright ('The Milngavie Walking Song' and 'The Hauling Song'), kosmische wanderings by sound designer Dougal Marwick, and folk songs (‘Oh Can Ye Sew Cushions’, ‘The Fisherman’s Lament’) uncovered in the 1950s by American music-archaeologist, Alan Lomax.
Just dark enough, with enough choice ingredients to justify a ‘not accompanied by a child’ visit from adults, Platform’s offbeat fairytale blazes a breadcrumbed trail.
Hansel and Gretel runs at Platform, Glasgow, until Sat 24 Dec.