Fringe World Review: Modicum Theatre Perth, Hansel and/or Gretel
Leederville Function Centre, 18 January
Review by Rosalind Appleby
The small stage in the Leederville Function Centre is encircled with a forest of (Christmas) trees, setting the scene for Modicum Theatre Perth’s production of Hansel and/or Gretel. In the centre is a wooden door – there is a lot of door knocking in fairy tales! – and young audience members flock to the picnic rugs spread in front of the stage.
The choose-your-own adventure version of this classic fairy tale by local writer Stephanie Ferguson is initially straightforward. It is narrated by fairy godmother Aaron Hamilton and all goes smoothly until the two children (Sarah Lewis as Hansel, Julia Haile as Gretel) argue over whether to eat the gingerbread house or not. The godmother interjects and suggests an audience vote and so the tale continues as the children wander through the wood encountering various characters. The enthusiastic audience made some interesting choices along the way, including opting for health food rather than eating the gingerbread house (cue bowls of porridge and Three Bears segue), and choosing to trust the wolf rather than proceed directly to grandma’s house (Little Red Riding Hood).
Of course you can’t fool children. “They are getting the story mixed up!” cried one child as the porridge bowls came out. But the cast took us all along for the ride, singing and dancing along with Hansel and Gretel and/or various other interlopers as they journeyed through the woods.
Modicum Theatre is an independent amateur company but what the young actors and design team (Laura Hodges sound and lighting) lack in sophistication they make up for in creativity. The audience interaction enlivens what is otherwise a fairly slow paced show. A highlight was the unexpected humour sparked by the wolf getting accidentally tangled in grandma’s knitting.
Hansel and/or Gretel is worth checking out with younger children (under 7) who will appreciate the friendly interaction and simple plot. Just make sure they know the story beforehand so they can recognise the deviations.