Hansel & Gretel, Citizen's Theatre (3 stars)

Hansel & Gretel

credit: Tim Morozzo

It's Brothers Grimm Up North

Nothing says Christmas spirit quite like the wild Jungian nightmares of sexually-repressed blowsy witches who eat animals and children.

Stuart Paterson' s wide-eyed and insolent titular siblings (Shaun Miller and Karen Fishwick) have enough issues to trouble Childline – or a few essays by the academic of dark fairy-tales, Marina Warner. There's poverty, neglect, a stepmum with a drink problem (Irene Allan) and a father, blinded by love (John Kielty) who can't see how he's being played.

In this elegiac and rich production, director Dominic Hill knows when to ramp up warm and fuzzy moments, with well-placed scenes of mild horror. There are nods to commedia dell'arte as well as folk tales, with a fantastic circus atmosphere, supported by a strong cast and their skills.

Rachael Canning's set and puppets are ravishing and inventive, with scary monsters, fire and a louche monkey to sate the chattering classes.

For older audience members, the melancholic touches resonate: the score, composed by regular Citizens' collaborator Nikola Kodjabashia evokes Tom Waits and wild Eastern European folk, while John O' Mahony's Orin introduces an almost Beckettian misery. in the main, it's as touching and life-affirming a Christmas show as can be found this year.

Citizen's Theatre Dec 6 2016–Jan 7 2017

Hansel and Gretel

Dominic Hill directs this festive production from the team behind 2014's A Christmas Carol.

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