Hansel & Gretel On Stage

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I’m pleased to at long last announce my collaboration with producer Kate Romano of Goldfield Productions on a new adaptation for the stage of Hansel & Gretel, with a spectacularly innovative poetic text by Simon Armitage, and music by composer Matthew Kaner.

Several years ago Kate visited me in at my studio when I was working on, among other things, a picture book of Hansel & Gretel. She’d come to me about another project, but in the end it was the picture book that stuck in her mind, and shortly thereafter she returned with the notion of making a stage production based on the story of the children lost in the wood.

As producer Kate brought composer Matthew Kaner to the project. I realised I’d recently been listening to Matt’s music when he was BBC Radio 3’s Embedded Composer during their 70th anniversary season. Matt, Kate and I met up in London to discuss the project the very day that the Hansel & Gretel picture book was being launched by Random Spectacular. We began to talk about a librettist. Simon Armitage’s name quickly came up, as he and I were already in conversation about illustrations for the revision and republishing of his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. (Forthcoming from Faber & Faber later this year.) In due course, he was approached by Kate, and after a meeting with the team to discuss ideas, he joined us.

I’m visual supervisor and director to the production, and I’ll be working closely with Caroline Clegg, who’s been charged with the dramaturgy. (Dramaturgy is an alchemical art, hard to pin down with clarity, but basically making sure the many threads of the production pull together as planned to create a coherent whole.)

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The visual aesthetic of the project has radically changed from when I made the Hansel & Gretel picture book for Random Spectacular and the Hansel & Gretel Toy Theatre kit commissioned by Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop, with Simon’s extraordinary re-imagining of the story taking us in entirely new directions. I’ve come to view this latest incarnation as the final piece of a trilogy, in which the same story is interpreted in three entirely different ways.
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Above, the picture book of Hansel & Gretel (in a special binding made for me by bookbinder, Christopher Shaw), and below, the Benjamin Pollock’s Hansel & Gretel Toy Theatre that I designed for Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop.
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I’m working closely with artist Philip Cooper, who’s producing the sinister building-block sets that will be projected onto a screen during performances. (Philip was previously my collaborator on the animated trailer we made for the Hansel & Gretel picture book.) With our shared love of Neo-Romanticism and German Expressionism – he moves easily between working in the UK and his home in Berlin – Phil and I share a visual aesthetic that means we collaborate very comfortably together.

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Artist, Peter Lloyd, is creating the most extraordinary shadow-puppets. He and I have an interesting way of working. I produce rough sketches and an open brief of how I want a character shaped and characterised, and then Peter runs with the idea, elaborating and adding layers of further detailing. If I’m the director setting out how I see the role, Peter is the casting-agent bringing me the perfect actor! Except he’s a casting agent who ‘makes’ the actors, the Baron von Frankenstein in our company of creators! The final stage will be when I stop-motion animate Peter’s shadow creatures into life.

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I’ll be working with my long-time film-maker and collaborator Pete Telfer of Culture Colony on the animation sequences. Pete and I have been working together for over a decade. He’s filmed and assisted me in the editing of countless projects, including The Soldier’s Tale for the forthcoming Música en Segura festival in Andalusia, and the animated book-trailer for the Random Spectacular Hansel & Gretel picture book.

 

 

The onstage puppets for the production are being made by the wonderful Jan Zalud, who I’ve been aching to work with for many years.

Below: Designs I’ve made to guide Jan in the making of our Hansel and Gretel tabletop-puppets.

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For this project we’ve assembled a wonderful team. The production premieres at the Cheltenham Festival in July.

Touring dates (further information & ticket details to follow) 

  • Cheltenham Festival WORLD PREMIERE  – 7th July 2018 
  • Lichfield Festival ‘book at bedtime’ Lichfield Guildhall  – 13th July 2018
  • Lichfield Festival matinee Lichfield Guildhall  – 14th July 2018
  • Three Choirs Festival  – 29th July 2018
  • Oxford Contemporary Music  – 14th September 2018
  • Barbican Milton Court Concert Hall Schools Matinee – 12th October 2018
  • Barbican Milton Court Concrt Hall – LONDON PREMIERE – 12th October 2018
  • Canterbury Festival  Colyer -Fergusson Concert Hall  – 21st October 2018
  • Bath Spa University  – Michael Tippett Centre – 24th October 2018
  • Broadway Theatre (Letchworth)  – 4th November 2018
  • Cambridge Music Festival – 23rd November 2018

 

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13 thoughts on “Hansel & Gretel On Stage

  1. What an exciting project, it looks to be a package of all your dreams and talents rolled into one! Well done Clive, you never cease to keep your imagination churning up new ideas. Glad you are working with equally talented people, it’s going to be a fantastic production by the looks of it. With much love from cold grey France, after a promise of Spring, winter has returned to beleager us all….. XxxxL

  2. My first thought was, ‘I’ll go to London to see it’ but then…CANTERBURY! That’s almost down the road.Huzzah!
    Love and huge excited hugs
    B xxx

  3. Congratulations on achieving the hat trick, with your news of the forthcoming stage production of ‘Hansel & Gretel’, Clive! And what a stellar cast of collaborators you have gathered around you; I am sure you will create something incredibly special in the company of this group of talented people.

    Seeing the heart-rending drawings of your two leading characters reminds me of Louise Murphy’s novel, ‘The True Story of Hansel & Gretel’, which is set in Poland towards the end of World War Two. Do you know the book? It takes place in The Bialowieza Forest, which is the last remaining primeval forest in lowland Europe, and is in a region where several of Hitler’s concentration camps were located. Hansel and Gretel are re-imagined as two Jewish children, fleeing from the Nazis, who are sent by their father to hide in the vast winter forest in a desperate bid to save their lives; 20% of Poland’s child population died in World War Two. Murphy’s re-imagining of the fairytale focuses on what the blind violence of war does to children and, in doing so, she completely transforms all the old archetypes of the story, so the wise witch Magda becomes Hansel and Gretel’s saviour. The book makes for a poignant and highly memorable read.

    I must admit that I’m totally intrigued to discover how Simon Armitage, who we already know as an accomplished translator, adapter and dramatist, has chosen to interpret The Brothers Grimm for the third part of your ‘Hansel & Gretel’ trilogy. I shall look forward to finding out later this year!

  4. Woweee!!! I’m glad the veil of secrecy has finally been lifted (partially!)
    I knew you were working away on this, but keeping very quiet about it, only revealing the smallest of details, here and there.
    Visually it looks so different to your book….darker, more unsettling? (very different to what I was expecting, think I had the Sendak stage version lodged in my mind, should have known you would go darker though! 🙂 )
    Can’t wait to go and see it 🙂
    P.S. Are those ‘Forge’ trees in the first photo? (they are from our neck of the woods, Worthing. We have quite a large collection of Forge trees and mountains)

    • Hi Pete. Yes, it’s all been quite the labyrinthine route to this stage of the project, so I’ve been only able to reveal very little until now.

      The look of the piece all stems from Simon Armitage’s reinvention of the story. But yes, the visual aesthetic is quite dark. Well, you know me!

      You’re right about Forge. I wrote to them and placed a special order. Phil Copper then gessoed them to get the finish we wanted. They’re due to be broken down quite a bit. The building-blocks are from many sources, contemporary and vintage, and painted and patinated to get the ‘found’ quality we want for this.

  5. Looks wonderful Clive, it would be interesting to see if we could bring this to Manchester at some point, It might fit with a larger project I was talking about with Chris Glynn in Cardiff…

    • Hello Ian. Lovely to hear from you. If you’re thinking of that possibility, I’d urge you to speak very soon with the producer, Kate Romano. Click on her name near the top of the post and you’ll find a contact button in the information bar.

  6. This all sounds very exciting — and that you’ll be working with a crack team of artists. Looks as though you have a busy few months ahead!

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