The Tobacco Factory Theatre goes from strength to strength, especially at Christmas time. Last year’s highly unusual Cinderella has transferred to the West End as the first ever festive show at the brand new St James Theatre. Now the Anglo-Norwegian company New International Encounter has arrived in Bristol with a captivating version of one of the darker of the traditional European fairytales to mark the 200th anniversary of the Brothers Grimm’s publication.
NIE director Alex Byrne has ensured that, for a family show, strands of famine, child abuse and cannibalism are leavened by a magical winter woodland setting, with bright as a button humour, clever use of puppets to double the title characters and European folk music played by the talented multinational cast.
Hansel and Gretel are made loveable but also brave and resourceful by Basque country actor Unai Lopez de Armentia and Swiss-born Stefanie Mueller. Norwegian Mia Hawk is the stepmother from hell, while Rew Lowe’s strong suit as the father is getting the audience involved. Yet musical director Carly Davis comes close to stealing the entire show as a short-sighted, evil witch.
It would be no surprise to see the company London-bound again next Christmas.