Review: Hansel & Gretel
The RNZB’s Hansel & Gretel is back for an end of year sweet treat. This was my first ever ballet when I moved to Wellington, and it was an utter delight to get a chance to check it out again for this year’s iteration.
Choregraphed and composed by my favourite RNZB duo, Loughlan Prior and Claire Cowan, this 1920s-film-inspired ballet combines glorious costumes, wonderful bold choreography and incredible dances to create a work that is truly very special.
Hansel (Shaun James Kelly) and Gretel (Kirby Selchow) live in a world that isn’t kind to them, though the love they have for each other, and their parents (Sara Garbowski & Damani Campbell Williams) is all encompassing.
After an argument at the dinner table, Hansel and Gretel run off into the woods and are lost to a world of strange birds (the RNZB’s child cast), ghosts and boogie men. Guided out of the darkness by the Dew Fairies (Mayu Tanigaito & Kihiro Kusukami + ensemble) and the Sandman (Shae Berney), they find themselves at a mysterious gingerbread house and welcomed into a wonderfully pink tableau with the Ice Cream Witch (Ana Gallardo Lobaina).
However! To their horror, the witch has more devious plans than she lets on, and in her transformed form (Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson) tries to eat the children – though they narrowly escape in the end.
Prior’s fantastic choreography shines through in this work. From the Balanchine-like long lines of the 1920s world where the children grow up, through jagged horror dance in the forest, to can-can, polka and even some lashings of cabaret and pop dance in the gingerbread house, these diverse dance strands meld together wonderfully, and are an utter delight to experience.
Cowan’s score is rich and equally as spellbinding. The main theme of the work inspires thoughts of stone castles and magical spells and the brass-laden numbers in the gingerbread house especially invoke this joyful whimsical feeling that is devastatingly catchy. It is an excellent score and you should buy it here.
Hansel & Gretel is a wonderful show, and one you should catch to get you into the festival spirit. Don’t miss out!