Hansel & Gretel gets a unique twist in locally produced show

Hansel & Gretel gets a unique twist in locally produced show

A timeless tale will be given a unique twist next month when Birmingham Hippodrome brings its first ever home-produced show to the Belgrade Theatre. Following its world premiere in the West Midlands, The Twisted Tale of Hansel and Gretel will head to Coventry in time for the Easter holidays on Wednesday 11 and Thursday 12 April.

Produced by Birmingham Hippodrome in partnership with long-term collaborators Open Theatre Company, this quirky new adventure combines live music, physical theatre and innovative design to reimagine the familiar fairy tale for a new generation of fans. Artistic direction comes from the award-winning Metro-Boulot-Dodo, a Midlands-based theatre company specialising in the creative use of digital technology.

The story begins with a journey deep into the woods, as a flustered storyteller follows Hansel and Gretel and is joined by a mischievous mockingbird along the way. But all is not what it seems, and before long, characters begin to take over the narration with their own version of events…

One of the region’s leading promoters of learning disabled arts, Open Theatre Company have been working closely with the Hippodrome to support emerging actors and artists from BecauseWeCanCanCan, a learning disabled-led company based in the Midlands.

Among the stars of the show is Coventry-born Rishard Beckett, one half of the duo Richard and Rishard, whose play The Yellow Post-It Notes was performed as part of the launch of the Coventry City of Culture bid at the 2016 Coventry Godiva Festival. Rishard has also performed in Coventry with Imagineer and Ego Performance Company, and has appeared as Mikey Wade in the Channel 4 series No Offence. Rishard will take on the role of Hansel in The Twisted Tale of Hansel and Gretel.

The Twisted Tale of Hansel and Gretel is directed by Esther Simpson and features a soundtrack by Charles Craggs and design by Kate Unwin. The show will also be supported by a full workshop programme, delivered by members of BecauseWeCanCanCan and involving over 900 children from local primary schools across the wider Midlands region.

Birmingham Hippodrome Chief Executive and Artistic Director Fiona Allan said; ‘This is truly fantastic news both for Birmingham Hippodrome and for the sector as a whole. We’ve been working with Open Theatre Company for over a decade to provide opportunities for young people with learning disabilities in the arts. Now we have the chance to expand that work even further and make a real difference to a new generation of emerging artists living and working in the UK.

By building on our existing work with BecauseWeCanCanCan, we hope to challenge prejudices around the skills and capabilities of young people with learning disabilities, and the nature of audiences who can engage with their creative work.”

Richard Hayhow, Director of Open Theatre Company, added; “This is an amazing opportunity for us to embed our long-standing partnership with Birmingham Hippodrome even further and to explore new creative paths with award-winning company METRO-BOULOT-DODO. Above all though, it will enable us to support and develop career pathways for the skilled and talented performers from BecauseWeCanCanCan and to showcase their work within some of best respected Midlands theatre venues as part of their established programmes.

As a new NPO within the Arts Council’s portfolio, alongside METRO-BOULOT-DODO, we are already committed to creating a further three ‘Twisted Tales’ over the next three years, which will tour across the UK. Through this vibrant partnership, we hope to celebrate the artistry of performers with learning disabilities and the vital contribution that can make to the existing arts scene in this country.”

The Twisted Tale of Hansel and Gretel gratefully acknowledges the support of Arts Council England, Edward & Dorothy Cadbury Trust, The D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust, Saintbury Trust and Sylvia Waddilove Foundation UK.

The Twisted Tale of Hansel and Gretel runs at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry on Wednesday 11 and Thursday 12 April. Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 024 7655 3055 or by visiting www.belgrade.co.uk where prices are even cheaper.