Review: Gretel by Marissa Ker

Draw a circle in the grass in the Great Court at The University of Queensland, St Lucia.  Fill it with an ensemble of schoolgirl singers and theatre-makers.  Draw deeply upon mythology, history, archetype and biblical material.  Strew around some folding wooden beach chairs and blankets.  Don’t forget the portable lights.  Et voila!  You have Scrambled Eggs’ production of Gretel as part of the UQ Theatre Festival within the Anywhere Theatre Festival 2018.

It’s exciting to see some of the oldest tools of theatre (such as music, the chorus, half mask, and simple costumes) being used by a new generation of performers to make this play.  The action begins with a group of students in mathematics class.  As in the ancient Greek story of Pandora’s Box, one of the women is punished for being curious.  In a world where women are primarily wives and mothers, what role does education have?  There was a delicious sense of juxtaposition at seeing this show in the Great Court at UQ, that place of ‘light, liberty and learning’.  The nearby trees evoked the forest.  Visual imagery and sound effects were used to great effect to lead the audience through the piece.  The chorus work is very well done.  There is a superb complicite in the ensemble.  The show is beautifully nuanced.

The story of Gretel, of Hansel and Gretel fame, is a narrative thread that binds the piece together.  The seams of the play are deftly sewn as the action moves briskly between scenes.  A capella singing, clarinet, keyboard and found objects such as sticks and stones are used to great effect.  The performers are probably better singers than actors.  The acting was a bit uneven:  some performers are better than others.  They will surely grow and improve.

Scrambled Eggs is to be commended for arranging the only Auslan interpreted show in Anywhere Theatre Festival 2018.  Auslan Interpreter Bec Jones skilfully interpreted a complex show using both Auslan and mouthing.  As a point for improvement, it is suggested that the interpreter stand closer to the action so that both the dramatic action and interpreter are within the audience’s line of sight.  This reviewer would have liked more neutral facial expression rather than the interpreter echoing the dramatic peaks and troughs of the piece in facial expression.

Review by Marissa Ker of Auslan interpreted performance on Thursday 17 May 2018.

Shows remaining in the season:  Fri 18 and Sat 19 May at 7pm.