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Hansel and Gretel review at the MAC, Belfast – ‘mischievous Christmas show for the austerity era’

Colette Lennon as the Sugar Witch in Hansel and Gretel at the MAC, Belfast Colette Lennon as the Sugar Witch in Hansel and Gretel at the MAC, Belfast

The MAC’s Hansel and Gretel is a virtual compendium of fairytale and fantasy characters: Three Little Pigs, Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, Little Red Riding Hood,  Awesome Man and Fantasti-Girl.

Director Rhiann Jeffrey and writers Stephen Beggs and Simon Magill have chucked most of the familiar storyline out of the window in favour of a scenario that chimes with today’s austere economic climate but with a fun-filled exit route.

Rosie Barry and debutant Michael Drake are well cast as the siblings, he a nerdy know-all, she a sensible girl who gets things done. Hit by redundancy, their clueless parents (Louise Matthews and Keith Lynch) decide to make this the perfect Christmas and drag the children out on a credit-financed shopping spree.

But when the shopping centre is hit by an electric storm, the outing turns surreal. Colette Lennon’s leather-clad Sugar Witch cuts loose on Garth McConaghie’s rocky score, though technical glitches do not do full justice to her strong voice. Richard Croxford is in fine fettle as a traditional green-clad Santa and a lifelike Big Bad Wolf. When order is restored the Sugar Witch has melted away and the family Christmas idyll is charmingly delivered by Barry at the piano.

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Verdict
A panoply of fairytale and fantasy characters deliver a mischievous Christmas show for the austerity era
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