Hansel & Gretel (a nightmare in eight scenes)

By 2nd June 2018Concert

‘In this striking modern update, the children are refugees and the fairytale is a nightmare…. Armitage’s words are the constantly shining white pebbles guiding the piece’
Guardian ★★★★ ‘

‘Superbly spoken by Adey Grummet, the familiar text has been reimagined as a 60-minute narration peppered with virtuosic wordplay, black humour and some startlingly earthy similes…the music projected with admirable finesse by the Goldfield Ensemble’. The Times

‘The most beautiful retelling….dark, impish, apt…stunning playing’ (Kate Mollson, BBC Radio 3)

‘Fabulous, topical and sad’ (Alan Davey, BBC Radio 3)

A true multi-media spectaclewhere the quirky and suggestive music ties the piece together, it is the skilled and emotive puppeteering that steals our hearts’ 

Little Life Theatre Blog

Goldfield Productions are proud to present their brand new touring production for 2018: a re-imagining of the famous tale, created by a stellar artistic team.

Hansel & Gretel was inspired by the visual creations of artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins. His quirky, humorous Hansel and Gretel characters had appeared as prints, in picture books and as a toy theatre for Pollocks Toy Shop. It seemed a natural development to bring these ideas to the stage using a much-loved story framework to tell of a darker, glittering Hansel & Gretel for the 21st century.

This unique touring production brings together the commissioned poetry of Simon Armitage in a new extended lyrical ‘libretto’ entwined with chamber music by Matthew Kaner, one of the most original voices of his generation.  The Hansel and Gretel characters originally created by Hicks-Jenkins have been reimagined and brought to life under his direction by three further outstanding artists: a puppet-maker, a model-maker and a paper-cutter.

Kaner’s ensemble features an unusual dark-hued collective of viola, cello, cor anglais, clarinet and horn, supplemented by the eerie childhood sounds of toy pianos led by the remarkable story-teller and soprano Adey Grummet. Hansel & Gretel delves deeply into the twisted themes of the original tale, creating an uneasy yet curiously familiar fairytale landscape where nothing is quite as it seems….

Hansel & Gretel outreach focusses on the themes of homelessness and the power of storytelling. Activities include story-making workshops, a pop up sister-production for our youngest audiences, large scale bespoke community events and site-specific storytelling theatre productions for young people.



The 2018 Hansel & Gretel tour has now ended 

Please continue to scroll down this page to watch the

Trailer and Full Film 


Touring dates 2018

  • Cheltenham Festival WORLD PREMIERE     7th July
  • Lichfield Festival ‘book at bedtime’, Lichfield Guildhall   13th July
  • Lichfield Festival matinee, Garrick Theatre 14th July
  • Three Choirs Festival, Tomkins Theatre     29th July  3.30pm
  • Oxford Contemporary Music, St Barnabas Church  14th September 8pm
  • Jack Lyons Concert Hall, York 3rd October
  • Barbican Milton Court Concert Hall LONDON PREMIERE 12th October
  • Canterbury Festival,  Colyer-Fergusson Concert Hall 21st October
  • Bath Spa University, Michael Tippett Centre  24th October
  • Letchworth, Broadway Theatre  4th November 6pm


Enter a world of light and shadow, of darkness and deception, a helter-skelter journey through ghostly horizons and feasts of sweetness.…

Creatives, cast & crew

Music: Matthew Kaner

Poetry:  Simon Armitage

Direction & Supervising Designer: Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Dramaturgy: Caroline Clegg

Research & Advisor: Paul Barker

Producer: Kate Romano (for Goldfield Productions)

Puppets: Jan Zalud

Paper cuts: Peter Lloyd

Models: Phil Cooper

Cameraman & Animations Editor: Pete Telfer

Projections & onstage camera: Jon Street

Set construction: Jon Street

Lighting design: David Abra

SM / DSM: Andy Shewan

Puppet costumes: Oonagh Creighton-Griffiths

Narrator: Adey Grummet

Puppeteer: Diana Ford

Puppeteer: Lizzie Wort

Music performed by Goldfield Ensemble

Anna Durance – oboe, cor anglais & toy piano

Kate Romano – clarinets

Laetitia Stott – horn & toy piano

Bridget Carey – viola

Toby Turton – cello


Goldfield Productions are grateful to the following Technical Theatre students at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama for their creative work and support during the development of Hansel & Gretel.

Lighting:  Lewis Hannaby, Danielle Utley & Rohan McDermott

Stage Management: Lois Sime, Sissel Nielsen & Mia Nielsen

Production Management: Tamsin Youngson

Hansel & Gretel is kindly supported by

Arts Council England, John S Cohen Foundation, Colwinston Trust, Double O Foundation, Foyle Foundation, Leche Trust, PRS Foundation, Radcliffe Trust, RVW Trust

Goldfield Productions would like to acknowledge the kind support of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and Royal Central School of Speech & Drama in the development of Hansel & Gretel.

Additional marekting in association with

From the press and from our audiences…. 

In this striking modern update, set to words by Simon Armitage and music by Matthew Kaner, the children are refugees and the fairytale is a nightmare

Guardian ★★★★


‘Not a sugary dream, but a nightmare in eight scenes: make no bones about poet Simon Armitage’s contemporary retelling of the tale most familiar in the Brothers Grimm version. Hansel and Gretel’s plight becomes that of child refugees, whose parents’ agonising decision is to abandon their offspring to give them their only chance of surviving war. Armitage took his cue from the darkly imaginative illustrations by artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins, who has now translated those original visions into a puppet show with new music by Matthew Kaner. In this premiere performance at the Chelteneham Festival staged by Goldfield Productions, what appeared at first to be a slight, small-scale affair in the end resonated altogether more deeply.

Kaner’s quintet of players – strings, wind and toy pianos – were arranged on either side of a screen whose animated shadow play featured first the parents and then the ravenous craw of the archaeopteryx-like witch. On the central trestle table were Hansel and Gretel, wooden puppets barely a foot high that were manipulated by Diana Ford and Lizzie Wort. It was the intimacy of tiny gestures offering expressive detail, in turn mirroring Kaner’s musical mood, that spoke volumes. Armitage’s words are the constantly shining white pebbles guiding the piece; his final verbal riff on light and dark will be even better savoured on the published page Narrator Adey Grummet – twice bursting into sung lines – emphasised the mix of humour and satire with the moments of dystopian horror, making this an all too timely reminder of some children’s living, waking, starving nightmare. (Rian Evans, full review)

This familiar text has been reimagined as a narration peppered with virtuosic wordplay and black humour

The Times

Those who find Humperdinck’s 19th-century operatic version of Hansel and Gretel almost as sickly-sweet as the witch’s gingerbread house might enjoy this very 21st-century take on the fairytale, which is less tuneful but a great deal darker.

Superbly spoken and very occasionally sung by Adey Grummet, the familiar text has been reimagined too. The poet Simon Armitage has turned it into a 65-minute narration peppered with virtuosic wordplay, black humour and some startlingly earthy similes.

Scored for a rather sombre combination of viola, cello, cor anglais, horn and clarinet, with a tinkle of toy piano ironically sprinkled here and there, the music certainly matches the sinister implications of Armitage’s story… projected with admirable finesse by the Goldfield Ensemble. The puppetry is fascinating, and there’s one good visual gag…... (Richard Morrison, The Times, extract from review)

‘The most beautiful retelling….dark, impish, apt…stunning playing’ (Kate Mollson, BBC Radio 3)

‘Fabulous, topical and sad’ (Alan Davey, BBC Radio 3)

‘Inspired by the striking visual creations of artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins, Simon Armitage’s poetic libretto, given voice by the captivating Adey Grummet, was woven in to Matthew Kaner’s evocative chamber music. Hansel and Gretel were brought to life by the table-top puppeteers Diana Ford and Lizzie Wort whilst the characters of the mother, father and the cathartid witch were created using shadow puppetry. Described as dark and quirky, that’s just how it should be’(extract from Planet Hugill)

From our audiences….

‘An incredible world premiere…an extraordinary piece of theatre’ (Cheltenham Music Festival)

A strong, dark, modern take on Hansel & Gretel…beautiful work’ (audience)

Beautiful visuals, puppetry and wonderfully balanced libretto from Simon Armitage’ (audience)

A stonking show! Absolutely superb – I loved it!’ (audience)

… a wonderfully intricate weaving of sound and image. The idea that parents might expose their children to terrible danger for their own safety, and that those kids might survive due to the resourcefulness that their parents have provided, is a story of our time that the creators of this piece have expressed most powerfully and beautifully. Adey’s voice, both in speaking and singing, were perfect for the narration, and thank goodness for the touches of humour’. (audience)

We loved it! We loved the book with integrated lights, and the puppets were totally beguiling. The puppeteers themselves were totally spell-binding to watch, their faces living all the action and emotions. The story was so beautifully written, as was the music, really lovely textures, and the bass clarinet sounded spectacular! Toy pianos used to great effect…a wonderful thing. Bravo!’ (audience)

We thought it was excellent! Every part worked so well together. The kids were amazed by the whole thing and thought the puppets were so lifelike that they were quite scary. We all really enjoyed it and were so glad we came.’ (audience)

I very much enjoyed the performance in Cheltenham. The script, the puppets and the beautifully performed score. Congratulations on the whole production’ (audience)

What a lovely little joy it was. If you want to go and see something brand new, a bit different and altogether captivating and enchanting catch this at one of the touring venues!’ (audience)

‘I have had the chance to listen to the BBC Radio 3 recording of Hansel and Gretel. Truly wonderful. The emotional journey created by the words and music is so rich and powerful and the brief glimpse of the staging and puppets provided by the BBC on the Sounds app suggests it must have been a magical theatrical experience’. (Radio 3 audience)

And from Lichfield Young Critic, Emily Robson:

The unique and intriguing story telling of Hansel and Gretel at the Lichfield studio combined together the art forms of puppetry, music, poetry, projections and song in a bewitching sensory masterpiece.

What struck me most about the performance was the beautifully winding language  written by the poet, Simon Armitage. The day “stagnated to evening” then “curdled to dusk”. This is one of the many uses of dark imagery which created the sinister mood and captured the attention of the audience by its almost hypnotic verse.

One part which I did not expect from Hansel and Gretel was the incorporation of humour. …..This was definitely unexpected, and, in response, a shaky laughter sounded from the audience!

I also loved the interaction between the narrator and the puppets themselves. When Hansel decided to steal a loaf of bread the speaker read: “It’s theft”. There was a sudden complete silence; the puppets suddenly swerved their heads around to look at the narrator in shock. Unlike most performances the usual barrier between performer and story teller wasn’t afraid to be crossed adding distinctiveness and character.

Props were effectively used, turning unsuspecting, innocent events into something more sinister. As soon as Hansel began to follow his trail of crumbs, clockwork cockerels were used, ‘pecking’ at the ground with an eerie repetitive motion. The puppets themselves also looked like something from a haunted house, setting me on edge from the very beginning, the screen behind enlarging their image in black and white.

I thought the music echoed the script well; when Hansel and Gretel found the house of sweets in the woods, the music became hectic and crazed, a xylophone highlighted the children’s desperation to eat as much sugar as possible. Trees were knocked over and part of the house collapsed. Again, this performance changes the common perception of joy in this scene to a slow drunkenness as the puppets devour more and more sweets.

The piece was also very abstract – instead of a puppet of an evil old woman, the single claw of a bird was shown behind, beckoning to Hansel and Gretel. The parents were shown as hunched figures in aboriginal styled patterns – all of which added further interest for the audience.

This intensive, visual performance of Hansel and Gretel, thundered with creativity, was very tightly executed and left me feeling overwhelmed and in awe of what this talented ensemble had achieved’.

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