REVIEW: Hansel & Gretel Williamson Park, Lancaster

Hansel & Gretel And More Tales From The Forest which runs from July 4-August 16 in Williamson Park, Lancaster

Hansel & Gretel And More Tales From The Forest which runs from July 4-August 16 in Williamson Park, Lancaster

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It’s Grimm up North again, as Lancaster’s annual open-air theatre treat goes back to its roots in a land of fairy tales.

Taking a leaf out of several storybooks, writer Zosia Wand and the Dukes theatre team, led by director Joe Sumsion, weave them into the magical woodland settings of the city’s Williamson Park.

Hansel and Gretel And More Tales From The Forest is at its best when it all gets physical and funny, but by necessity of a story wrapped around abandoned children it needs to dip into darkness as well.

Look around you and you’ll see more than one young theatregoer contemplating the implications with a nervous thumb suck.

They’ll give thumbs up too, to a wildly inventive woodland dinner scene in which a feminist frog princess, regretful big bad wolf and a swan with its wing in a sling sit down to a riotous supper.

With so many tales to tell it’s sometimes easier to follow the footpaths between the five woodland scenes than the story itself, but designer Alison Heffernan, aided by Brent Lees’ exemplary lighting and sound design gradually make this one of the more spectacular theatre outings of recent times.

The woodland walk between final scenes becomes a son et lumiere experience.

Kieran Buckeridge’s songs add their own weight to the production and the local tones of Joshua Miles and Jessica Baglow, in the title roles, are as authentically Lancashire as the backdrop of sunset across Morecambe Bay in this commendable summer show. It runs until August 16.

David Upton