Review: Jovial HANSEL AND GRETEL at The Swedish Theatre Of Helsinki
The Swedish theatre of Helsinki brings the story of Hansel and Gretel alive in a joyful way and is genius in its creativity and well timed choreography!
The red curtains of the stage are still closed. Soon we start hearing noises from all around us, as if we'd be in a mystical forest. The Swedish theatre of Helsinki has surround voice system, so that's cool, it's something I haven't experienced before. Soon the stage is filled with a group of jovial and groovy characters dressed similarly in black, red and white. They introduce themselves as the "Grimm's brothers" and tell what they're up to- they want to catch magical letters to form a story. Then these playful letter-puppets start to come out. One is hiding at the balcony and tries to get away, one swoops across the floor. Children laugh sweetly. A truly remarkable and eventful performance is about to begin and the now caught letters finally form the title: Hans och Greta!
Everyone knows the Grimm's classic story Hansel and Gretel so I was very excited to hear one is on at the Swedish theatre of Helsinki. I know a little Swedish as any Finn would, though a tablet from the reception would have offered me translations. I'm glad I didn't take one: had I not kept my eyes open, I would have missed many magical, finely detailed moments!
The show is excellently designed in many ways: the music is a major part of the performance so it's no wonder the rotating stage had around five pianos on it at times. And the use of them is really creative too when, for example, one is being opened while all of the ensemble has their part to play, either by knocking, banging or tapping the piano, and so it creates all kinds of funny sounds the ensemble plays in rhythm! The overall sound design itself is unique and excellent in many ways. I already mentioned the 3D effect of the forest sounds in the beginning, but in addition to that the sounds of the classical pianos are at times being transformed into a more playful ones when needed. I was honestly left staring at the piano, wondering how does it sound like that! Occasionally some lines of the characters were left echoing too, which worked very well.
Because the show is planned especially for children and childlike like me, it is beautifully visual. Something I want to tip my hat to the most is the performance's choreography, whether it's the adorable cat puppet's movements or the chicken character's chase and its egg-bombing of the children. That scene actually ended up being one of my favorite ones: all of the actors' movements were in flow and worked together excellently! I started clapping and so did the rest of the audience and then the chicken took steps to the front stage like a model in heels, so I honestly started having tears because I laughed so much! Perfecto. So, the choreography is very good, whether it's just the way the characters run on stage or peek behind a bush, it's just mesmerizing, well timed and thought-out!
Another one of my favorite moments was when the Moon character came to give the final shining orbs to the children's path. The orbs rolled into their places by the help of the rotating floor and the children's grab. 5/5 theatre-moment!
In terms of the visuality of course I'm talking about the set, prop and costume design too as there is some genius creativity in it. Kudos to the bird that ate the breads! That, in addition to many theatrical-solutions of the show, is exactly how you create magic on stage and use imagination to bring the story alive, both practically and aesthetically. Also when Gretel tried to find out the right way to go and her skirt flung in the rhythm of it, it fit so well in the scene and came as a surprise. Beautiful. Somehow I also ended up loving the fact how Hansel answered to Gretel in the same scene. He was very present and I didn't even know there were so many different ways to mumble "uhm" back to someone. When speaking about detail I also loved the moment when the witch used pepper and salt as maracas to bring rhythm to the spice-song. Groovy!!
The teamwork is dreamwork in this play. Everything goes in flow. There were many moments when I curiously wondered beforehand that how is this or that thing going to work, or how is it going to be put together- and again and again I was nicely surprised! For example how the bird still kept flying in the background though it was "off stage", though still seen to the audience. Very good! Something I would have wanted to see in a different way came at the end: all of the ensemble characters were sucked into the world of Hansel and Gretel through the same hole, so I also would have wanted to see them appearing from the same one back to us, but perhaps statistically it was better to do it the way they ended up doing it, so no worries! Otherwise the ending was just purely magical.
All in all Hansel and Gretel is a heartwarming and colorful adventure of the known story, a show that I recommend with all my heart! It included so many things, big or small that either surprised me, made me laugh or even scared, eyes wide. I have to admit I haven't seen something quite like this in the life span of 21 years... I'm actually going to reach out to them if they could give me tickets for another round!
Hans och Greta runs in the Swedish theatre of Finland till late Spring of 2019!
Watch the trailer of the show here!
Photos: Cata Portin
Article: Rosanna Liuski