Pop-Up Opera’s latest production has plenty of charm and cheekiness about it to make it a fun experience.
The V&A’s Museum of Childhood is not necessarily the first place you would think of to come and see an opera, but Pop-Up Opera specialises in performing operas in unique locations that actually manage to enhance the story.
For their latest production of Humperdinck’s Hansel & Gretel, the museum is entirely appropriate – not only in terms of surrounding the audience with childhood memories of the toys that are on display in the museum but also for the surprisingly good acoustics for the music itself to ring out properly, but still gives that feeling of intimacy.
Directed by James Hurley, this is a very contemporary version of the classic fairytale, with references to Strictly Come Dancing and The Great British Bake Off in the delightfully humorous captions. It fully embraces the childish nature of the story – particularly the sibling rivalry between Hansel & Gretel that is very familiar to anyone with a sibling! By keeping the production values low, it means not only Humperdinck’s glorious music is the main focus, but also allows the audience to use their imagination in a childlike way, almost playing along with Hansel and Gretel.
Humperdinck’s music is given life thanks to the spirited and delicate performance of Berrak Dyer, who captures every change in mood and situation perfectly and is even able to enhance the more comical moments – particularly the numerous silly fights between Hansel and Gretel.
All of this is enhanced by the performances of all of the cast – not least Polly Leech and Sophia Larsson as Hansel and Gretel, both believable as brother and sister while vocally powerful enough to fill the museum with sound. There is also a strong performance from Alisa Mainwaring as both mother and the witch – great comic timing and just frightening enough as the witch.
If the production is lacking in anything, it is sincerity and a strong emotional core. The production might be two hours long, but the audience isn’t really given a strong enough sense of how frightened the children are or how worried the parents are. Everything feels just slightly rushed through and emotions are brushed aside easily.
However, Pop Up Opera prove that by putting on intimate operas such as these can prove just as effective as anything you might see on a bigger stage. It is playful and entertaining from beginning to end.
Hansel & Gretel will continue to pop up in a variety of locations until the 19th November. To find out more and to book tickets visit: https://www.popupopera.co.uk/productions/hansel-and-gretel/