Uchenna Dance’s Hansel and Gretel. Photo by Foteini Christofilopoulou
Choreographer Vicki Igbokwe retells the classic story of Hansel & Gretel, amalgamating house, waacking, vogue and forms of African and contemporary dance in the children’s search for home. Igbokwe’s version sees the two fearless siblings embark on a journey from their childhood hometown, dropping them in the middle of the hustle and bustle of busy London. Colourful, quirky and set to the funkiest 90s RnB and Ghanaian pop sounds, Hansel & Gretel has the whole family bouncing in their seats.
A soundscape of city traffic accompanies the children and their guardian, Wasi, as they journey by boat to the UK. Rather than following breadcrumbs, Hansel and Gretel follow a string of landmarks that lead to them from Kings Cross Station to a cacophony of sounds in Brixton. Separated from Wasi, the two siblings boldly take on the care system and the adults they come into contact with, including, of course, the evil witch.
The duo dip and dive, as they tease and hide from one another, sticking their tongues out and waggling their fingers. The cast are light on their feet, chasing each other through moments of physical theatre, acrobatic inversions and cool, funky house. Undulating torsos and unfurling arms are set atop deep transfers of weight. Igbokwe’s choreography is bright, fun and silky smooth.
While Hansel & Gretel is certainly aimed at children and young people, there is plenty for the adults in the audience too. Igbokwe quietly points towards the implicit socio-political backdrop of migration that hangs behind the themes of home, youth and family in Hansel & Gretel. A socially and politically conscious work of dance, Hansel & Gretel is woven with reminders of the Windrush, the current debate on borders and immigration, and the UK state care system which awaits many unaccompanied arrivals.
However, the strength of Hansel & Gretel lies in Igbokwe’s ability to create a truly family-friendly experience that not only engages children but includes them too. Dancers Esme Benjamin, Rudzani Moleya, Mayowa Ogunnaike and Marc Stevenson enlist the audience’s help in games of Hide and Seek and What’s the Time Mr Wolf, encouraging the children to point and shout out at the dancers. Towards the end, the children are invited on stage to dance along to Composer and Sound Designer Kweku Aacht’s eclectic score.
Igbokwe’s Hansel and Gretel are resourceful, courageous children. By thinking on their feet and using their imagination, they take control of their lives and their own destinies. Above all, Igbokwe is triumphant in creating dance that is not only accessible and fun, but that engages the next generation of young people.
Reviewed on 20th of December at The Place