The second Kneehigh production in three months to underwhelm and now I realise why – the material isn’t good enough for their extraordinary talents. Their best work has always been meaty – Tristan & Yseult, Cymbeline, A Matter of Life & Death and Brief Encounter, to name just four. These slight tales – Hansel & Gretel and The Red Shoes – just aren’t substantial enough so it’s all style and innovation and little substance. The former council chamber at BAC, without the usual black drapes but with wood paneling and faded paint revealed and the external windows exposed, is very atmospheric (and the use of the balcony entrance / exit is terrific). With three rows of seats on three sides, it is also very intimate. The production’s look and musical style owes a debt to Shockheaded Peter which preceded its first outing, but it’s a great gothic feel all the same (but maybe they’ve done the white vest and y-front look once too often?). It’s hard to fault the design, the staging, the music or the performances, but it’s just wasted on a slight tale and doesn’t sustain a 90-minute running time. To be frank, I became distracted and bored. Hopefully, the month’s other Kneehigh show (are they over-stretching?), The Umbrellas of Cherbourg – will be substantial enough. Fingers crossed! - Gareth James
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