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Scottish Ballet’s Hansel and Gretel review at Festival Theatre, Edinburgh – ‘crackling with colour’

Scottish Ballet dancers as Dewdrop fairies in Hansel and Gretel by Christopher Hampson. Photo: Andy Ross Scottish Ballet dancers as Dewdrop fairies in Hansel and Gretel by Christopher Hampson. Photo: Andy Ross
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Crackling with colour and wit, but preying on the darkest parental fears, Scottish Ballet’s revival of Christopher Hampson’s Hansel and Gretel is tighter than it ever was during its first outing in 2013.

Visually, nothing has changed. Gary Harris’ design moves freely from 1950s austerity to 1970s psychedelic vibrancy as Andrew Peasgood’s Hansel and Bethany Kingsley-Garner’s Gretel leave home in search of their disappeared school friends, only to get lost in the woods and captured by Araminta Wraith’s witch.

The change is in attitude, starting from the pit, where Richard Honner brings a sharp edge to the edited music for Humperdinck’s opera (with its added sections from later works). There is more directness and storytelling in the dancing. In Peasgood and Kingsley-Garner’s opening duet, for example, they find humour from the relationship and characters of bossy Gretel and unbiddable Hansel rather than from their playing around.

Wraith, new to the role of the Witch, gives her a stinging sharpness. Seen as a schoolteacher seducing her pupils with sweets, pre-curtain, she turns late-night vamp as Hansel and Gretel set off through the town. Later, she rides in etherial splendour on the backs of Ravens into the pair’s dreams, induced by Christopher Harrison’s remarkably Jagger-esque Sandman.

Act II is, ironically, softer in tone. Hampson’s use of classical ballet moves is more prominent and the dancing has less storytelling to do. The parental fears of concealed dangers melt away, too, as the Witch reveals her true, vile appearance. Although, once revealed, it is still up to the children to free themselves from her oven.

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Verdict
Visually sweet and emotionally dark, Scottish Ballet creates a satisfyingly complex Hansel and Gretel
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