Hansel and Gretel

Date 7th January 2017
Society Ace Theatre Group
Venue Marven Centre, Sawston, Cambridge
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Carol Wratten
Musical Director Not attributed
Choreographer Carol Wratten


Author: Julie Petrucci

The story of Hansel and Gretel is a famous, if dark one, about a young brother and sister
kidnapped by a cannibalistic witch living deep in the forest in a house constructed of cake
and confectionery. The two children save their lives by outwitting her. The tale has been
adapted to various media, most notably the opera but this show adapted for the society by
Carol Wratten certainly gave a much needed lightness to this rather scary tale.
The sell-out first performance at the Marven Centre meant the place was buzzing but,
although everyone front of house had their hands full, a warm welcome was given us first
by the front of house staff and then by the Director personally.
The main thread of the newly adapted story was that the Sandman’s bag of dreams had
been stolen by the Old Witch. Hansel and Gretel, wishing to help retrieve it, set off for the
dark wood meeting various Fairies, Goths and Rock People on the way before being
captured by the Old Witch. Enter Jason, the Traveller, who together with the Sandman set
out on a rescue mission helped, or hindered, by Will O Wisp. The prologue with opening
graphics set the scene nicely before we joined the folk of Sunnyville at their village fete.
This first performance lacked pace. Some of this was due to dialogue issues and late
entrances, others to technical difficulties with sound cues. The taped music was all very
nice but would have benefited by some judicious editing as some items went on too long
and others were not faded beneath the dialogue making it difficult to hear. I don't know
what type of sound system there was available but it left a bit to be desired. The lighting
was very good and there were more lights than I have ever seen at the Marven Centre.
There was only one dark spot down left on the fore stage but that was quickly sorted.
The scenery was beautifully painted, imaginative and colourful. The way the stage
appeared holding E.T.C the live (and talented) rock band looked great. The scene
changes were done as smoothly and as quickly as was possible and the costumes,
courtesy of Jenny Joyce and Amanda Crabb, were lovely and very colourful. The
choreography and grouping throughout was excellent. A lot of rehearsal time had been
well spent. There was a beautiful and very sweet ballet which opened Act 2 in the Fairy
Glade and a superb tap dance later on at the Devil's Rock. Well done to all the young
dancers involved.
It was easy to identify members of the cast and production team by good quality
photographs in the programme. The twenty-eight members of cast were, in the main,
under-sixteen who all did well overall.
Because of the youthfulness of the cast the range of experience differed hugely. However
there were good performances from Hansel (Owen Barton) and Gretel (Amy Gill). From
Lia Downing as Old Witch (great projection!), Tanisha Smith as Jason, Will Lucas-Evens
(who shows great potential) as Will O Wisp and Bob Cat (Oliver Ashton).
I was very impressed by Amelia Chapman as Honeysuckle and particularly Rose Smithet
was The Sandman, both of whom had good natural stage presence. I am sure we will be
seeing much more of these two young ladies. Richard Cook as the Goth Donny did much
to help the interaction with the young audience who all loved the rabbit chase, and well
done for coping with the 20 or so budding thespians who participated in the children’s singa-
long. I suggest too that everyone watches out for Chris Heather, Thomas Gammon and
Ed Cozens who made their debut as the aforementioned E.T.C. If rock is your music style
then E.T.C. have it.
Despite the first performance blips Director Carol Wratten and the Ace Theatre Company
provided a show which kept the young audience absorbed throughout the afternoon.