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<<  -- 2 --  Rex Harley    INFUSED WITH MAGIC

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The excellent characterisation continued with the arrival of their over-worked and harassed mother, sung with great freshness and conviction by Tinuke Olafimihan; then, once they have been sent, in disgrace, to pick strawberries in the wood, with the entrance of their father, drunk and happy after a surprisingly successful day selling brooms in the nearby town. Henry Newman's voice had both warmth and power, and he moved nicely from self-satisfied inebriation, in Ral-la-la-la, to the fervid depiction of the Nibblewitch and her culinary skills with boys and girls.

Henry Newman as Father with Tinuke Olafimihan as Mother, in Longborough Festival Opera's 'Hansel and Gretel'. Photo © 2005 Stephen Wright
Henry Newman as Father with Tinuke Olafimihan as Mother, in Longborough Festival Opera's 'Hansel and Gretel'. Photo © 2005 Stephen Wright

Once we entered the woods, in pursuit of Hansel and Gretel, the production values of this performance really began to assert themselves. Maximum use had been made of the depth of the stage, within which the wood itself advanced and retreated, most importantly a single tree with features almost human. This could have been an extremely hammy device but it worked to perfection because the design was sufficiently ambiguous, the movement so carefully choreographed; and all complemented by the use of the ghostly children, who, transformed into trees themselves, rustled their osier branches menacingly. Even the dry ice, which first envelops Hansel and Gretel, then floats away to reveal them safely asleep, seemed to have been choreographed with the same precision. Rounded off with the sweet lullaby of Catherine Redding's Sandman, this whole scene was infused with a magic which was quite captivating and, as the final strains of the first half died away, I found myself quite incapable of either moving or talking. I seemed, quite literally, spellbound, surely a measure of theatre at its very best.

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Copyright © 27 July 2005 Rex Harley, Cardiff UK

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