Venture deep into the woods for a quirky retelling of a familiar fairy tale
Following the cancellation of live performances at the Belgrade Theatre in March, we’re delighted to announce that our friends at Open Theatre Company will be streaming The Twisted Tale of Hansel and Gretel online for free from 2.30pm on Saturday 25 April.
After touring the Midlands in 2018 following its sell-out premiere at Birmingham Hippodrome, the show began a second UK tour this spring – sadly cut short when the lockdown was announced.
But the Coventry-based company and long-term Belgrade collaborators have now sprung into action to offer audiences who missed out a chance to enjoy the show online. The show will be streamed via YouTube, and you can watch along below.
Presented in partnership with Birmingham Hippodrome and the award-winning Metro-Boulot-Dodo, this quirky retelling combines live music and hilarious storytelling with inventive design to offer a fresh take on a familiar fairy tale.
The show is the first of three planned “Twisted Tales” being developed by Open Theatre Company, the leading promoters’ of learning disabled arts in the West Midlands.
Over the last 30 years, Open Theatre has been working with young people with learning disabilities (YPWLDs) across the region to create a wide range of theatre, films and outdoor events. A major barrier YPWLDs face in participating in the arts is the belief that they will never be able to produce work of the same quality as their non-disabled peers.
By providing them with opportunities to work on ambitious professional productions, it aims to inspire them with the confidence to pursue creative careers, as well as challenging audience perceptions about their work.
Rishard Beckett in The Twisted Tale of Hansel and Gretel (2018) credit Kate Green Photography
Featuring a mixed ability cast and crew, The Twisted Tale of Hansel and Gretel invites audiences on a journey deep into the forest, where a flustered storyteller attempts to follow the famous fairytale siblings, encountering a mischievous mockingbird along the way. But all is not what it seems, and before long, the characters begin to take over the narration with their own version of events…
Starring in the show as Hansel is Rishard Beckett, who is one half of Belgrade Springboard Company Richard and Rishard, together with fellow local artist Richard Walls. As well as creating and performing in his own one-man show Yellow Post-It Notes, he has also appeared in the BBC’s Doctors and in Channel 4’s No Offence.
Additional casting for the show includes Jessica Rowe as Gretel, Nicky Priest as Storyteller, Charles Craggs as Mockingbird, Jake Jarvis as Witch/Mother, Luke Greenwood as Father/Chef and Vicki Taylor as Duck. The show is directed by Esther Simpson and designed by Kate Unwin with original music and songs by Charles Craggs and animation design by Paul Long and Andrew Leake.
Luke Greenwood in The Twisted Tale of Hansel and Gretel (2018) credit Kate Green Photography
Director Esther Simpson said: “A good twist is an essential ingredient to any great play. A twist is something unexpected, surprising even startling. It is still unexpected to see professional artists with learning disabilities and / or autism on our stages. Our ‘Twisted Tales’ series will challenge this as the majority of our company have a learning disability and / or autism. We see learning differences as creative differences: the cast’s unexpected, twisted ideas have enabled us to create a show that will amuse, delight and tickle your funny bone! So, get ready for a truly twisted tale.”
Richard Hayhow, Director of Open Theatre Company, said: “We’re excited to be touring The Twisted Tale of Hansel and Gretel throughout the UK this spring. The Twisted Tale of Hansel and Gretel allows us to support and develop the career pathways of our performers, but what’s more to showcase their talent and reflect and celebrate their unique creativity.
“With this national tour we aim to realise and celebrate the extraordinary creative potential of people with learning disabilities. We are committed to challenging preconceptions about disability and to demonstrating new artistic possibilities. We will, bringing a further two ‘Twisted Tales’ over the next three-four years, which will also tour across the UK. 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 will be available to watch online from 2.30pm on Saturday 25 April.