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Hansel and Gretel - Roxy Lane Theatre

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

Reviewed by Paul Treasure

 

The Pantomime is a style of theatre with rules all of its very own, and there is nothing like a good Panto. Although it does come in two different flavours. You have the big, elaborate pantos with a huge chorus, a huge set, and a huge budget, the sort you would expect to see in a big city with a couple of huge stars in the lead. And then you have the smaller, humbler pantos that you would see put on in a village or church hall, with a cast made of locals, with a non-existent budget, but with one thing just as huge as their professional counterparts, their heart. Roxy Lane Theatre, with their latest production of Hansel and Gretel, have given us a classic example of a village hall panto. Full to the brim with heart.


The show has a nice array of colourful costumes, coordinated by Christine Ellis, and a very simple and effective set, designed by Celeste Lopez. The set is comprised of a number of reversible flats, colourfully painted, one side representing a village, the other a forest, and a very colourful gingerbread house, with some of the elements detachable so they can be “eaten”. Special mention must also be made of the curtain which cuts the stage in two, with a willow tree painted on it. This curtain is one of the prettiest pieces of set this reviewer has seen in a while.


As with any panto, one expects the stand-out performances to be the Dame and the Dame’s sidekick. Robrecht Herfkens, dressed in a wonderful array of gaudy frocks by Annette Stivaletta, was a delight as Dame Dyspepsia Do-Good, and the sidekick Dickie DYMWIT, vibrantly played by Hannah Prowse, was the absolute stand-out of the show. Hannah had the audience in her hand from the moment she entered the stage, deftly controlling and marshalling any audience interaction she was involved with.


Christine Ellis, as the evil witch Attrocia, gave a strong performance brimming with menace, and she seemed to feed off the loud booing whenever she was onstage and lifted to be even more menacing. Kezia George and Lachlan Anderson as the bumbling guard Potz and Pans were delightful, lighting up the stage with their antics. They showed a lot of potential, and could easily have stolen the show, but slapstick is deceptively and notoriously difficult to pull off, and with just a little more control and precision they could have had it perfect. Kudos to both of them.


The success or fall in any panto is how big the acting is. This is not a subtle art form and needs to be painted with huge, broad, colourful brush strokes. The rule is often to make it as big and brash as you can… and then go further. A lot of the acting in this production felt either timid or self-conscious. My advice to the actors would be to let yourselves go, embrace the panto and go as big as you can.


This was a charming production, full of heart and good humour, and the kids seemed to love it. After all, it is panto, and that is what is the most important!


Reviewer Note: Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.

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