That said, not quite sure a white carpet works for the staging, and the shiny round brown pebbles really don’t. But a sinister parade of trees makes an effective backdrop with the main construction being a sort of marquee which acts as cottage and the witch’s lair, full of good things to eat yet bad intentions, as well as the Oak Tree narrator. And it’s all enhanced by tableaux, inventive mime, song and dance plus realistic, frequently comical dialogue.
However, a shame the music is sometimes too loud for the lyrics to be clear but Shawney Ross can belt it out, sparkling as the intrepid heroine. She is ably abetted by Becky Illsley as mischievous Hansel, just as Jay Davies and Holly Wilson-Guy make a good team, honours even with the laughs. His humorous turn comes as villain turned victor Crow, particularly the costume (the worst ever novelty slippers), having been thoroughly hen picked as the Woodcutter. Meanwhile, the scowling evil stepmother is transformed into a glam Witch, all red lipstick, black ruffles and lace, and even blacker heart.
OK, the messages are drummed home: poverty and hunger are not good; shouldn’t harm trees or anything green; girls are always braver than boys, and sugar makes you really, really hyper. But probably no better place to introduce the joy of pantomime to your children, and rediscover some Christmas magic for yourself.
- Carole Baldock