Review Hansel, Gedeon and the Grimm’s Wood, Odyssey by Chloe Clarke

Hansel, Gedeon and the Grimm’s Wood.
Wales Millennium Centre, 6-8th December 2018.

A Christmas treat, Hijinx Odyssey cleverly put their unique slant on a delightful but dark compendium of Grimm’s classic tales, centred around a trepidatious Hansel and cheeky, daring Gedeon, deftly played by Danny Mannings and Mathew Mullins respectively. Venturing into the forbidden forest against their parent’s wishes they encounter a host of colourful characters – from partying princesses (Kirsty Rosser and Jen Lacey) to Odyssey’s very own Rolling Stones the Musicians of Bremen (Keith Richards being a highlight, otherwise known as Donkey, played by Matthew Cook), The well-timed physical comedy of The Boy Who Went Looking for Shivers (Freddie Holcombe) and the sinister Wolf and his evil cohorts.

Most impressive was the incorporation of beautifully constructed puppets in the form of the Wolf, Thirteenth Wise-Woman, The Ugly Stepsisters and Witch, constructed by hugely talented University South Wales students as well as a stunning, colourful set and costume design from Kitty Callister. The puppets were skilfully operated by cast including Andrew Todd, Jen Lucey, Andrew Tadd, Geraint Stewart-Davies, Sara Pickard and Sian Fouladi.

A touch tour was offered before the show so I got to experience these magnificent features up close, and audio description provided by Alastair Sill ensured that I had access to the show throughout. All shows were BSL interpreted by Sami Thorpe so that D/deaf audiences had as much choice as hearing audiences in which show they’d like to attend.

The Odyssey Christmas show is always a pleasure to partake in – there’s a fantastic, supportive, familial atmosphere of anticipation and excitement as people of all ages are welcomed in. The fact that audience members are invited to come up on stage at the end to meet the actors and puppets enhances this. The company’s humour and unique character comes through beautifully and this gets stronger each year thanks to the continued commitment of the group, their director, volunteers and support staff.

The show was very clear in terms of structure thanks to cleverly considered and witty writing from Llinos Mai and insightful, creative direction from Jon Dafydd-Kidd, ensuring that the talented cast kept us engaged and laughing throughout. This is a fun and frivolous show that celebrates and maximises the talent of the Odyssey team – ‘team’ being the optimum word – in which every single member is vital and dedicated, all the while not being afraid to go to dark places: something that a lot of inclusive groups are often too afraid to do. Colourful, dark and funny, we were swept up on the journey all the way to the Grimm’s Wood and back again.

Chloe Clarke

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