We Brits have been borrowing Christmas traditions from our German neighbours ever since Prince Albert introduced the Christmas Tree to Britain from his Native Coburg in 1840. Let’s face it, in Germany they do Christmas nearly as well as they do football. In the week before Christmas Storyhouse borrowed and gave an entertaining new twist to a German tradition in the shape of Craig Charles version of The Brothers Grimm fairy tale, ‘Hansel and Gretel’.
Craig Charles Scary Fairy story, based on the bedtime stories he told his children to frighten them to sleep, takes the Grimm tale and makes it a touch Grimmer with added violence, snot and gore. Just perfect for a cold, dark winter’s evening. Charles was backed by the Storyhouse Orchestra, playing a score specially composed by Iain Farrington. Each character in the story was represented by a specific theme which developed throughout the story. The Wicked Stepmother (I assume a toxic blend of Anna Nicole smith and Joan Crawford) sashays through the night accompanied by a jazzy syncopated theme.
Young Hansel and Gretel venture into The Dark Wood, ignorant of their stepmother’s plot to reduce the household bills by sacrificing the children to the child-eating witch who makes her home in the heart of the woods. Venturing into the haunting cluster of winter trees felt to me a bit like the direction of post-Brexit Britain – I don’t suppose Hansel and Gretel’s stepmother will invest any of her savings into a good cause such as the NHS, more likely on supplies of hemlock infused craft vodka.
Before the main course: two plump children lightly poached in a cauldron, Ensemble Deva, conducted by Clark Rundell, performed a programme of cheerfully festive music, the overture to Humperdinck’s opera Hansel and Gretel, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and, in conclusion, The Radetzky March by Johann Strauss. During this final piece Mr Rundell successfully directed not only his orchestra but the audience, who managed to clap along in time with the fairly complex rhythm: who said men can’t multi task?
During the early discussions surrounding the development of Storyhouse there was a counter proposal to build a purpose-built concert hall on the little Roodee. Classical music lovers should not be disappointed this didn’t happen, for the flexible performance spaces at Storyhouse provide superb acoustics.
Craig Charles and Ensemble Deva gave a fun and joyful performance which left us all a little warmer as we ventured into the dark night, wary of the hidden things lurking in shadows.