Hansel and Gretel returns to the Belgrade Theatre

Coventry-based Open Theatre Company present the second tour of their quirky fairytale adventure.

Following its sell-out premiere at Birmingham Hippodrome and successful tour in 2018, Open Theatre Company’s The Twisted Tale of Hansel and Gretel sets off on a brand new adventure this spring, returning to the Belgrade Theatre in March as part of its second tour. 

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 Coventry-based company Open Theatre, 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. 

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

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.”

Open Theatre aims to increase access to the arts for audiences as well as artists, and a relaxed performance of the show will be held at 10:30 am on Thursday 19 March. Visual story guides and accessible literature are also available to support the audiences’ enjoyment and comfort within the theatre. 

Specially adapted to provide an open and welcoming experience for all, relaxed performances are aimed at those who prefer a more laid-back theatre experience with freedom to move around, make noise and come in and out of the auditorium, including those with Autism spectrum conditions, sensory and communication disorders, learning disabilities and dementia, as well as young children experiencing theatre for the first time. 

The Twisted Tale of Hansel and Gretel returns to the Belgrade Theatre Coventry from Tuesday 17 until Thursday 19 March. Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 024 7655 3055 or visiting www.belgrade.co.uk where prices are cheaper.