Brett Herriot Review

Hansel and Gretel, the Pantomime, the Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Review:

“ Brings the magic of childhood out in all of us!

**** 4 Stars

The Brunton went online for its 2020/21 pantomime of Repunzel which saw what is becoming a strand of lesser chosen panto titles following a more miss than hit production of Cinderella in 2019/20 the Musselburgh team are back in front of a live audience with a charming and on the money production of Hansel and Gretel.

Director and Writer John Binnie has made a shrewd choice in selecting the tale of the brothers Grimm which tells the story of the brother and sister Hansel (Ross Donnachie)and Gretel (Eilidh Weir) who are lead into the wood by the evil Wicked Stepmother (Wendy Seager)who wants the money of the Invalid Father (Graham Crammond) all to herself. Whilst in the wood the siblings are split apart at lost with Hansel coming across Echo woodland Creature (Finlay Bain) and Maisie Mither Nature (again Graham Crammond in a panto dame of peerless quality) when Gretel manages to find Hansel once more they set off for home only to be tempted a ginger bread house and a old woman with an evil stroke of eating children fresh from her oven. The challenge is on to defeat the Witch Wart Nose (Wendy Seager proving she can be doubly as bad) get home and perhaps under the stand the power that the woodland has on all our lives.

Binnies script flows marvellously well with a return to pantomime sketches along with the story line being threaded through out and the educational embellishments work especially well considering this has been the year of COP 26.

Performances are uniformly excellent with the small principal cast working as a well oiled team, both Donnachie and Weir bring a child like wonder to Hansel and Gretel and Weir especially posses a honey soaked voice that shine in her songs. 

Finlay Bain’s “Echo” is a terrific spirit of panto type character that floats between visibility and invisibility and he has the audiences on side from the off his strong presence on stage anchors the overall production to his credit.

Wendy Seager is the Brunton’s resident baddie and she knows her craft well, getting the boo’s in full flow although her first appearance as the old woman The Witch Wart-Nose is actually tender and she shows her acting chops with a moment of tender driven pathos before her evil inward self is revealed! A true veteran baddie indeed.

The star of the panto has to be Graham Crammond and his wonderful Dame Maisie Mither Nature with ever outlandish frocks and wigs and rich patter of comedy joy de vere, his quips and adlibs induces laughter in both kids and adults alike.

Production wise The Brunton has returned to strong panto ground with a colourful set and costumes designed by Robin Mitchell, especially the chocolate box style gingerbread house knocks the eye out as it s shines under Ian Curtis and Gary Morgan’s Lighting design which see the deployment of many sparkly bunches of lights across the auditorium itself. There were a few issues with the sound and missed cues but that will sort itself out as the show beds into the run.

The Brunton features one of the few pantomimes to have a children’s ensemble in it with 5 groups of kids sharing the stage it comes down to Amy Robinson Choreography to keep them busy and she succeeds with style delivering flowing numbers for both the ensemble and principals alike.

Binnie’s strong direction accompanied by Tommie Travers excellent musical direction that see’s everything from McFly to Proclaimers and the Sound of Music get a look in, it is the glue of the show although one of these  years hopefully the Brunton splashes out on a extra musician or two for the pit.

Coming in at just on two hours including interval Hansel and Gretel sees The Brunton pantomime return to form and do what it does best a family inspired pantomime that brings the magic of childhood out in all of us!

The Brunton Presents Hansel and Gretel the pantomime, Brunton Theatre Musselburgh, Runs until Friday 31st December for tickets go to: https://www.thebrunton.co.uk/en-GB/shows/hansel%20and%20gretel%20the%20pantomime/events

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