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. Caroline Clegg has 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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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