Hansel and Gretel

Dec 10 2021 | By More

★★★★☆   Sweet treat

The Brunton: Tue 7 – Fri 31 December 2021
Review by Martin Gray

It’s back! Oh yes it is. After Covid sent the 2020 Brunton panto online, the regulars are once more live on stage before a very appreciative audience. Hansel and Gretel brings festive fun back to Musselburgh, bigger and better than ever.

With up-to-the-minute gags and tunes – a number from Abba’s new album is a lovely surprise – and the local references audiences love, writer/director John Binnie makes it feel like panto had never left the building.

Ross Donnachie (Hansel) & Graham Crammond (Maisie Mither Nature) Pic Robin Mitchell

This year’s offering gives a shout-out to COP26, which is appropriate given the ecological themes running through the production. Hansel and Gretel, abandoned in Carberry Woods by their wicked stepmother, are befriended not only by eco warrior Echo, who’s irked by the mess regular folk are making of the world, but Mother Nature herself.

Or rather, because we’re in the Honest Toun, ‘Maisie Mither Nature’. The Queen of the Brunton Panto, Graham Crammond, makes sure kids took away a lesson or two with a rendition of Reciprocity from Chicago that insists ‘When you’re good to Mother Nature, Mama’s good to you’,

sparky siblings

Heck, the Green theme is so present, it’s a wonder this show isn’t called Hansel & Greta… Happily, the lessons don’t get in the way of the fun. From the minute Hansel, Gretel and their post-heart op dad (rather harshly referred to in the programme as ‘Invalid Father’) appear against a Musselburgh High Street backdrop, we’re laughing.

Graham Crammond (Maisie Mither Nature) and Ross Donnachie (Hansel). Pic Robin Mitchell

And no wonder, with Brunton regulars Ross Donnachie and Eilidh Weir as the sparky siblings and Crammond, again, as their doubly unfortunate dad – he’s married to a sinister shopaholic in the form of the magnificent, maleficent Wendy Seagar.

Like Crammond, Seagar is doing double duty, spending the second half as Witch Wart-Nose, she of the tempting gingerbread house. Entering with a suitably sweet rendition of Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the crone quickly shows her true colours, zapping Hansel into a cage to fatten him up while bewitching Gretel with her ‘multifunctional’ walking stick wand.

robot Alexa

The enchantment gives Weir her best moments, as she becomes a ‘robot Alexa’, force feeding Hansel for the oven. Weir marries Truly Scrumptious clockwork doll movements to that hugely annoying smart speaker voice and it’s marvellously creepy stuff.

Finlay Bain (Echo) & Eilidh Weir (Gretel). Pic Robin Mitchell

Happily, Mither Maisie and Echo – a winsome Finlay Bain – use wit, skill and a little magic to rescue the delightfully daft lad from his cage and Gretel from the clutches of the near-blind cannibal. A cracking special effect follows before we get to the always-popular ‘Bring doon the cloot’ singalong and the inevitable wedding (happily, it’s not Hansel marrying Gretel).

With delightful banter, clever plot turns and Covid-compliant audience interaction, Hansel and Gretel is a sweet treat after a(nother) tough year. Binnie’s script might usefully lose the references to the missing and murdered children of Musselburgh – bit of a downer, that – but otherwise this is the perfect family show.

bravo to the entire production team

It has splendid costumes (Maisie’s rubber duck blue rinse is a winner), sharp sets, well-drilled kiddies and fine musicianship from Tommie Travers; basically, bravo to the entire production team. Fingers crossed all these elements will be in place in 2022 to lift our spirits once again.

For now, there’s Hansel and Gretel – join them in Carberry Woods, but when you see a gingerbread house, don’t get greedy…

Running time: Two hours (including interval)
The Brunton, Ladywell Way, Musselburgh EH21 6AA. Phone booking: 0131 665 2240
Tue 7 – Fri 31 December 2021
Various times: two shows daily (not Sun).
Either 10am or 1.45pm and either 5pm or 7pm.
Check website for tickets and details: Book here.

Ross Donnachie, Eilidh Weir, Finlay Bain, Graham Crammond & Wendy Seager Pic Robin Mitchel


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