Mary Woodward Preview

PREVIEW: Scottish Opera present Hansel and Gretel

Scottish Opera: On Screen

Scottish Opera premieres Humperdinck’s enchanting Hansel and Gretel in the latest Scottish Opera: On Screen, filmed at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal on 19 December. The whole family can immerse themselves in this modern adaptation of the classic fairy tale from Wednesday 10 February at 6pm, via the Scottish Opera website. Before then, BBC Radio Scotland will feature audio excerpts from the performance as part of Classics Unwrapped, presented by Jamie MacDougall, on 7 February now availble on the BBC Sounds App.

Sung in English, with staging by Daisy Evans, this vivid and joyful reimagining of Humperdinck’s opera tells the heart-warming story of two children and their journey from an impoverished home, into the mystery and danger of the woods. Brought to life by Daisy’s unique staging, with a Christmas-crazed witch and a shopping trolley full of sugary sweets and garish goodies, Hansel and Gretel seem a long way from their simple family life. Packed full of charm and sparkle this production is an ideal anytime treat for children and adults alike, sure to lift spirits and transport audiences from behind the screen to a world of hope and wonder. Although Hansel and Gretel is an opera traditionally associated with Christmas, Daisy’s new production celebrates the opera’s joy and hope that are just as powerful and relevant whatever the season.

David Parry conducts a cast including Kathleen Ferrier Award-winner Kitty Whately as Hansel, Rhian Lois (La bohème 2020) as Gretel, ENO Harewood Artist Nadine Benjamin as Mother and The Witch, Phillip Rhodes as Father and former Scottish Opera Emerging Artist Charlie Drummond (Così fan tutte, 2020) as The Sandman and The Dew Fairy, in a translation by David Pountney and with a reduced orchestration by Derek Clark. Humperdinck’s chorus of gingerbread children is performed by a chorus of four adults.

Speaking to Scotsgay Arts, Daisy Evans said: ‘This show is fun for all the family, bright colours, big energy and plenty of glitter! With the current pandemic, everybody has had a difficult Christmas, so I wanted it to be about finding joy where we can, and about families celebrating together. And I also want it to encourage people to come back to the theatre, and to bring their children with them – to make them want to be part of this experience, and to invest in it as part of our culture.’

Scottish Opera’s Head of Music, Derek Clark said: ‘Despite a prolific composing career, Humperdinck’s reputation rests solely on this one opera. The combination of a straightforward fairy tale with a musical language which owes a heavy debt to Wagner may seem an unlikely one, but in Hansel and Gretel, the mixture of simple tunes, like the famous Dance duet, thrilling orchestral passages such as the Witch’s Ride and the Dream pantomime, and the tender emotion of the children’s Evening Prayer produces a masterpiece which has kept its popularity for well over a century.’

Available to watch via Scottish Opera’s website www.scottishopera.org.uk.

Find out more about Daisy Evans staging of Humperdinck’s fairy tale opera in an exclusive interview: www.scottishopera.org.uk/news/an-exclusive-interview-with-daisy-evans-staging-hansel-gretel/

Mary Woodward Preview

Scottish Ballet film The Secret Theatre, Preview

The Secret Theatre

Available on Scottish Ballet’s website from 6pm Monday December 21

tickets free, bookable up to 5pm December 24

It’s been a long hard nine months – I can hardly believe that the last live performance I went to was Choice Grenfell at the Brunton theatre at the beginning of March.  As we move towards the shortest day, and out the other side, Scottish Ballet have given us the perfect antidote to the darkness, and something to help lift our spirits as our earth turns once more towards the light.

A young boy clutching a football walks through crowded streets.  He notices an imposing door, which is slightly ajar.  Silently it swings open, and he tiptoes through to discover an empty theatre foyer.  Moving forward he enters the auditorium – dark, empty, all the seats sadly waiting for an audience.  He hears a noise, sees a light, and crouches down to avoid the torch beam of the security guard.

Then suddenly the lights come on, the tabs go up, and the boy is drawn onstage.  Exploring further, he is mesmerised by the costumes, ‘heads’ and all the props lying around, just waiting for the performers.  Suddenly a big hamper’s lid opens, and out comes…

The Secret Theatre wascreated by Scottish Ballet’s CEO and Artistic Director Christopher Hampson and long-term collaborator Lez Brotherston and directed for screen by Jess and Morgs, using music by Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky, recorded live by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra.  Anyone familiar with Scottish Ballet’s recent Christmas shows will recognise characters, choreography and music from previous works, and have fun identifying characters and situations.  I don’t want to give too much away, but I was delighted to get another look at some of my favourite parts of the Snow Queen and the Nutcracker.

What I found fascinating, and what for me is one of the huge advantages of a show that was conceived and directed for the camera, is the possibility of close-ups of the dancers and an ‘all-round’ view of some of the movements.  Even more attractive because usually impossible was the engagement of the dancers with the camera lens – seeing real people rather than fairy-tale characters remote from everyday life, interacting with each other and particularly with the young boy, superbly played by Leo Tetteh – just the right amount of wide-eyed innocence coupled with a keen sense of fun and enjoyment of this magical world into which he’s suddenly been catapulted.  All the incredible dancers in the company were given the opportunity to show off, and they did so with a right good will – though I noticed that the girls rarely got to show off quite as athletically and exuberantly as the boys did – but that’s ballet for you, eh?   

I thoroughly enjoyed the privilege of a press screening, and will cheerfully watch the show again, probably more than once, in the run-up to Christmas, as it’s a perfect antidote to the gloom that can so easily settle around us in these challenging times!

The Secret Theatre will have its public premiere on Monday 21 December at 6pm. It will be available to watch until 11.59 on 24 December. Tickets are free but must be booked in advance via Scottish Ballet’s website, and can be booked up until 5pm on 24 December (all times are GMT).  The film will be accompanied by a series of talks and workshops tailored to the communities Scottish Ballet tours to, delivered in partnership with venues – check the website for details. 

And that’s not all – there’s plenty to look forward to in 2021, including a brand new short film The Swan, inspired by the stage production of Swan Lake; a new programme of adult and children’s ballet classes presented on Zoom and a range of health resources, including dance classes for those living with neurological conditions, and movement resources for NHS staff and keyworkers.  In addition, a free membership scheme has been launched so that audiences can stay connected with Scottish Ballet.

As Christopher Hampson says, Dance is a medium that brings people together and now, more than ever, we need to connect with each other. By bringing new artistic and engagement work into people’s homes this winter, we celebrate the benefits and importance of creativity in all its forms.

Thank goodness for Scottish Ballet and all the other companies that are working so hard to keep our spirits up and help us look towards the time we can once more enjoy live theatre.  If you’d like to support the making of The Secret Theatre please consider donating. Thank you.

If you would like to make a donation online, you can do so here

Alternatively, you can donate via text:

Text SBXMAS 5 to 70450 to donate £5

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Mary Woodward