★★★★ ‘For thrills, laughs and shivers for the whole family, Wee Hansel and Gretel really takes the cake.’
Wee Hansel & Gretel by Scottish Ballet – Scottish Ballet quite regularly adapts full length ballets to ‘wee’ proportions, allowing children to watch a shortened and adapted version, appropriate for their age and attention span. We experienced the Aberdeen performance of Wee Hansel & Gretel, but if you’re considering shows in Edinburgh 13-15 September, Greenock 27-28 September, Inverness 5-6 October and Dundee 26 October, here’s what to expect.
For Tots – Wee Hansel & Gretel by Scottish Ballet
Even setting foot in a grand theatre can be a new experience for many tots. In terms of the performance itself, we’re talking a curtailed hour long performance, with no interval. The show is short but wonderfully sweet. Feel free to bring snacks, but don’t mention ice-cream during the non-existent interval like I did, duh. The show is recommended for 3-8 year olds.
Introduction of Wee Hansel & Gretel by Scottish Ballet
The scene is set by a young, lively narrator, who firstly engages the kids with some panto style fun and interactive ‘magic’. Importantly, he then summarises the plot of Hansel & Gretel for those unfamiliar with the tale. He introduces brave Gretel, who defends and protects her little brother Hansel, and the trio play hide and seek. All the kids in the auditorium were silent and ready for dancing to begin. Job done Mr Narrator!
The ballet starts with mime, set to the music of Engelbert Humperdinck, recorded live by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra and played at a level that won’t overwhelm tots. Cleverly, once the kids are hooked, more and more dance routines are introduced. Before you know it, you’re watching a full blown ballet, featuring a pirouetting pastry chef, an evil breadcrumb snatching raven and a haggard witch. Highlights included the fantastic rag dolls that roll out of the wicked witch’s toy cupboard, and the three beautiful ‘corps de ballet’ dancing sweet treats who really tick the traditional ballet box.
With colourful set and costumes designed by Gary Harris, the look of the piece works for adults as well as children. Despite a few severed limbs, and bloody handprints on the witch’s apron, it’s not particularly scary for kids. The narrator returns midway to chat to the young audience, untangle the plot and set up the conclusion. Before you know it the witch is in the oven!
To the credit of Scottish Ballet, the auditorium (packed full of kids) was pretty much silent throughout, with the exception of numerous questions – most of which came from my Mr Tot, aged 4. Several kids in my vicinity questioned the safety of the teddy bear that the witch had thrown in the stove – RIP teddy bear.
Bringing two wee lads along with me, I was pleased to see several engaging male roles – including Hansel, the chef, the raven and one rag doll. I don’t want the kids to class dance as a hobby or career for any particular gender. Overall, Wee Hansel & Gretel was a sweet, bitesize introduction to ballet for youngsters, and a great lesson in never accepting lollipops or treats from strangers…
Prices & Booking
Ticket info, show times, theatres and prices can be found here. For an hour’s entertainment it’s not a cheap outing (an issue that ballet and opera particularly have faced for a long time), but it’s definitely a treat, a cultural experience and something of an investment, exposing the kids to new things. The ballet was able to reach more remote Scottish islands, supported by Loganair, Caledonian MacBrayne and Northlink Ferries.
Other reviews say
★★★★ ‘A splendidly pitched piece… both charmingly humorous and brilliantly executed’
The Herald on Sunday
★★★★ ‘A charming, bite-size ballet that will keep children hooked’
If you couldn’t make this ‘Wee’ adaptation, perhaps look out for more in the future.