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Hansel and Gretel review: Pantomime balances tradition with a contemporary pop twist

Theatre: Plenty of songs and laughs in this crowd-pleasing show that honours panto’s legacy

Hansel and Gretel: The Helix Panto

Helix Theatre

There is trouble in Merryville, the fictional fairytale town that is home to Buddy (Colin Hughes), Lola (Chris Coroon), and Laurel (Aidan Mannion), three of the recurring characters in the TheatreWorx annual panto. Although they are entirely superfluous to the main narrative of the pantomime’s traditionally-inspired story, for the audience this trio are the real stars. From winding the villain up to winding each other up, the best moments in Hansel and Gretel revolve around their scripted and improvised banter.

Writer Karl Harpur spins an elaborate original story from his source material. Hansel (Brian Dalton) and Gretel (Caoimhe Garvey) are the estranged secret offspring of Queen Aria, whose controversial copulation with an elf led to her mysterious disappearance from the town. The plot kicks off when her long-lost cousin, Donny Brook (Paul Byrom), shows up, determined to rebrand Merryville for the internet age.

With camera phone in hand and millions watching, he tries to convince the villagers that living in Fluencer Town will be a digital dream come true. He doesn’t anticipate the steadfast bravery of the siblings, however, whose strange visions eventually bring them together in the haunted woods, where they meet a pair of Humicorns eager to act as their spirit guides and the Witches of Eastwall, who thankfully turn out to be more of a help than a hindrance to their quest.

Director Claire Tighe brings the plot and its distractions together with practised ease, and even the actors laughing at their own comeuppance can’t stop the steady spin of action that guides us towards the happy ever after.


There are song and dance numbers drawn from contemporary pop to move the action along, with Jessie J, Lizzo, and Ed Sheeran providing inspiration. with the inevitable nod to Kate Bush and Stranger Things enlivening the climax. The pantomime form may be centuries old, but TheatreWorx ensures their version balances traditional elements with contemporary flair and fun.

Runs until January 15th at The Helix, Dublin

Sara Keating

Sara Keating

Sara Keating, a contributor to The Irish Times, is an arts and features writer