Hansel and Gretel, Berry Theatre, Hedge End

‘I GIVE it 10,000 per cent’ my son announced and, mathematical accuracy aside, I have to agree that the first Christmas show at The Berry Theatre is simply first class.

Open since April, The Berry Theatre proves the perfect venue for this sugar-coated production of Hansel and Gretel.

The multi-talented trio of Edward Wren, as Hansel, Deborah Pugh, as Gretel, and Ivan Stott, as the woodcutter, delight the audience with their acting, singing, mastery of at least seven musical instruments and stunning puppetry skills.

The story opens on Christmas Eve at the Woodcutter’s cottage where the ungrateful siblings refuse the wooden gifts crafted by their father.

Hoping to teach them a lesson he abandons them in the forest where they will have to work together to find their way home. But it is not until they encounter The Witch and her dastardly plan of eating the children for Christmas that they finally see the light.

With their bobble hats firmly in place the childish antics and squabbling of Hansel and Gretel have children in stitches while striking a chord with every parent present.

John Barber’s puppets, Guthrie, the woodpecker, and The Witch, are spellbinding to watch and the lyrics of the songs, written and composed by Ivan Stott, are so clever you are hanging on every word.

The venue offers the chance for the characters to interact with the audience, including throwing sweets to the eager children, and while your attention moves away from the stage, set changes happen almost miraculously.

Hansel and Gretel is not your average pantomime and you are unlikely to hear a single shout of ‘He’s behind you’ but this is a festive treat in more ways than one.

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