Opera North at the Grand Theatre. It was musically enjoyable and I did like it, but the staging was occasionally jarring – and also occasionally innovative. The Ken Loach/Benefits Street approach was interesting and suited the themes of hunger and witch-as-metaphor but sat a little oddly with the broom-selling trade, gingerbread house and underpinning of piety.
The use of video was both brilliant and distracting. It worked very well to show the children’s journey into the forest during the Witch Ride (toy cars and the inexplicable Christmas decorations in the kitchen were pressed into clever use) and the transformation of the kitchen (which I was getting heartily sick of, but I guess it works for a touring production and reflects children’s ability to transform their ordinary surroundings into the fantastical) into the gingerbread house, but at other times it was too intrusive and distracting. I didn’t need any more up-the-nose, Blair Witch Project views of the singers. And the Traumpantomime video was clichéd, although I can see that it avoided the problem of how to make the appearance of 14 child-protecting angels work as well as a cannibalistic witch.
Nevertheless, it was fun. I also enjoyed watching the back-row boys at work – the drums, the cymbal, the triangle and the sheet-metal players.
- Hansel – Katie Bray (brilliantly naughty)
- Gretel – Fflur Wyn
- Gertrud/Witch – Susan Bullock