HANSEL & GRETEL – Museum of Childhood

In Comedy, London theatre, Opera, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Laura KresslyLeave a Comment

Museum of Childhood – touring until 19 November

I’ve never been to the V&A’s Museum of Childhood, let alone after hours. But in the expansive hall and gift shop, one corner has been set up as a playing space for Popup Opera’s Hansel & Gretel. There are shelves of toys and other souvenirs behind us, and sterile glass display cases behind the stage. Our cozy pocket in the grand room has a sinister gloom surrounding what with the autumn evening’s quickly fading light. It’s a suitable space for a story that mostly takes place in the woods overnight, when fairies and witches come out to play.

Director James Hurley doesn’t focus on the darker elements of this fairytale, though. Using surtitles as a vehicle for humour and contemporary references, Popup Opera succeeds at making Englebert Humperdinck’s full-scale opera fun and accessible.

Fiona Rigler’s set is minimal, with mops and buckets used successfully as a forest and less so as Hansel’s cage. Her witch’s house is colourful and enticing, but the collapsable structure is less of a house and more of an Ikea flatpack gone wrong.

The surtitles, necessary for the German-language libretto, incorporate childlike illustrations, text speak and jokes that are both funny and relevant. The chosen vocabulary is easy to understand, quick to read and does the promised job at making opera accessible.

Polly Leech and Sofia Larsson are a playful Hansel and Gretel, with Leech making a particularly convincing young boy. They are expressive and energetic, using movement freely and effectively to show their youthful characters and fill the space. Despite the sparse set, they give us plenty to watch.

Though not a shiny, sleek production like Opera UpClose’s recent The Magic Flute, Hansel & Gretel goes for ease of understanding rather than high production values – and it works. This is a fun, relaxed production that is warm and easy to follow.

Hansel & Gretel tours through 19 November.

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Laura Kressly on RssLaura Kressly on Twitter
Laura Kressly
Laura is a US immigrant who has lived in the UK since 2004. Originally trained as an actor with a specialism in Shakespeare, she enjoyed many pre-recession years working as a performer, director and fringe theatre producer. When the going got too tough, she took a break to work in education as a support worker, then a secondary school drama teacher. To keep up with the theatrical world, she started reviewing for Everything Theatre and Remotegoat in 2013. In 2015, Laura started teaching part time in order to get back into theatre. She is now a freelance fringe theatre producer and runs her independent blog, theplaysthethinguk.com.
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Laura Kressly on RssLaura Kressly on Twitter
Laura Kressly
Laura is a US immigrant who has lived in the UK since 2004. Originally trained as an actor with a specialism in Shakespeare, she enjoyed many pre-recession years working as a performer, director and fringe theatre producer. When the going got too tough, she took a break to work in education as a support worker, then a secondary school drama teacher. To keep up with the theatrical world, she started reviewing for Everything Theatre and Remotegoat in 2013. In 2015, Laura started teaching part time in order to get back into theatre. She is now a freelance fringe theatre producer and runs her independent blog, theplaysthethinguk.com.

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