Hansel and Gretel on stage: irresistible, with a touch of evil

Dec 21, 2012

Katie Mitchell's irreverent retelling of a fable is a treat for feminists, traditionalists and children

What you need to know
A new production of the classic Brothers Grimm fairytale Hansel and Gretel, directed by Katie Mitchell, has opened at the National Theatre. Mitchell collaborates again with playwright Lucy Kirkwood and designer Vicki Mortimer, the team behind The Cat in the Hat and Beauty and the Beast.

Hansel and Gretel tells the story of a brother and sister who must try to escape the clutches of a child-eating witch after they are abandoned in the forest by their wicked stepmother.

Kate Duchene stars as the witch. Comic actors Amit Shah and Justin Salinger double up as the Brothers Grimm and the children's father and stepmother. Ruby Bentall and Dylan Kennedy play the ill-fated brother and sister. Runs until 26 January, Cottesloe, National Theatre.

What the critics like
"Here's a treat for feminists, traditionalists and all their kids," says Caroline McGinn in Time Out. Feisty young playwright Lucy Kirkwood and left-field director Katie Mitchell create a show with "bags of charm and intelligence", and a child-eating witch "who brings a touch of real evil".

This production manages to honour the imagination, plot-line and Period feel of a classic while bringing its own rich, irreverent spin to the fable, says Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph. The gingerbread house looks delicious, but "the whole show is an irresistible feast for the senses – at any age."

It's a playful and shrewd take on this dark children's tale, says Paul Taylor in The Independent. Justin Salinger and Amit Shah are both adorable in their variety of roles and Kate Duchene is "splendidly pervy" as the villainous crone. "Charming."

What they don't like
It's a tasteful fairytale but oddly muted, says Libby Purves in The Times. The songs are unimpressive and Dylan Kennedy and Ruby Bentall
make "rather bland children".

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