Gingerbread man, anyone?
It’s no secret that I love a good panto – and I’m working hard to make sure my children love them too (whether they like it or not). Judging by my daughter’s reaction to Hansel and Gretel at Hertford Theatre this weekend – “I’d give it 100 out of 10” – I think I’m doing a pretty darn good job of it.
I don’t think I’d ever seen Hansel and Gretel as a panto before – and it did deviate a wee bit from the traditional fairy tale – but it worked. It was set in Iceland (the country, not the shop… their gag, not mine…), and the whole show had a neatly Nordic feel to it. Think Ana in (dare I say it?) Frozen and you’ve got a good sense of the costumes right there. Oh, and there were trolls. Loved the trolls.
I think I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to cross-dressing (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write), and the Hertford panto doesn’t – gasp! – have a pantomime dame. Nope, no middle-aged chap dressed up in a garish dress and spectacular fake boobs. What it does have, though, is a deliciously wicked witch – Grimmelda – who is gloriously evil and ends up getting her fiery comeuppance as well she should.
It’s a redhead’s dream, this panto. The flame-haired Martha – Hansel’s love interest – runs a stall called “All Things Ginger” and the equally fiery Grimmelda is after the last jar of ginger in the country.
The costumes and set are gorgeous – beautifully designed and perfect for the story. When the cage comes down to trap poor clueless Hansel (bless ‘im), there was actually a gasp from the audience – including from my daughter, who then booed the witch for all she was worth.
There are loads of songs in this panto – and lots you’ll recognise. My absolute favourite, though, was Minty the Snow Fox totally rocking “All About the Bass” – or should I say, “All About the Fox.” It was hilarious. She was a definite highlight, and the look on my 5-year-old’s face when she came and sat near us in the aisle was a picture.
One of the things I really enjoy about the Hertford Theatre panto is that it’s professional but it’s not all about a couple of ‘celebrities’ off the telly heading up the cast list. And the ensemble of young dancers was stunning – great dancing and very cool choreography.
If there are any tickets left (and they’re going fast, apparently), I’d definitely recommend this one (oh yes I would). It’s maybe not chock-full of belly laughs and innuendo (although the father was a woodcutter, so there is the odd ‘chopper’ joke in there now and again), but it’s a fun story full of strong performances and great songs. Get your tickets, grab a gingerbread man, and head off into the Icicle Forest. Just be sure to leave a trail of pebbles, won’t you…?