ALL three Saturday performances of Whistle Stop Opera: Hansel And Gretel at the National Centre for Early Music, York, have sold out, but now the bewitching open-air show will pop up on York Theatre Royal’s Pop-Up Patio tomorrow too.
Touring from August 18 to September 5 as part of Opera North’s Switch ON autumn programme of outdoor events and digital projects, the 40-minute production is devised and directed by John Savournin for four singers and accordion and provides an introduction to opera for families, as well as being suitable for adults.
The Whistle Stop mini-opera uses excerpts from Engelbert Humperdinck’s magical 1893 opera to retell the fairy tale of two hungry children, lost in the woods, and a gingerbread cottage that hides a scary secret.
“Journey through the woods and gorge yourself on the exciting twists and turns of the plot as you meet the characters along the way,” says Opera North. “Just beware of the evil witch and don’t stray too far from your tour guide – you never know what trickery you may encounter along the way.”
Whistle Stop Opera: Hansel And Gretel has been performed in outdoor settings across the North in August and September, with social distancing in place for audience members and performers and limited numbers of tickets available, in accordance with Covid-19 guidelines, for “pods” of up to five people, although exact seating arrangements have varied from venue to venue.
In the Hansel And Gretel company are Laura Kelly-McInroy (Jennie Hildebrand in Street Scene, 2020) as Hansel; Jennifer Clark (Flora, The Turn Of The Screw, 2020) as Gretel; Claire Pascoe (Emma Jones, Street Scene, 2020; Witch, Into the Woods, 2016) as Mother/Witch, and director John Savournin (Carl Olsen, Street Scene, 2020; Priest Fotis, The Greek Passion, 2019) as Narrator/Sandman. Miloš Milivojević will play accordion.
In the initial announcement, Hansel And Gretel was to have played Pontefract Castle, Pontefract, tomorrow at 4.30pm, but that performance no longer appears on the Opera North listings.
Instead, York Theatre Royal’s patio will play host to shows at 1pm and 3pm with a maximum audience of 35 at each one. Given the speedy uptake of tickets for Saturday’s 11.30am, 1pm and 3pm performances in the NCEM garden, do not delay a moment longer in booking for tomorrow at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk, tickets costing a fiver. Please note, access to Pop-Up On The Patio events is restricted to paid ticket holders only.
The Theatre Royal also advises: “As we all know, the weather in England can be unpredictable, so we recommend dressing for the weather and bringing waterproofs just in case.”
This short-notice addition to the Pop-Up programme comes on the back of the Pop-Up On The Patio festival that ran on three Fridays and Saturdays from August 14 to 29, co-ordinated by Theatre Royal producer Thom Freeth.
Taking part in a Covid-secure summer season of outdoor performances, on a terrace stage designed by Yorkshire theatre designer Hannah Sibai, were “Yorkshire’s finest theatre and dance makers”.
Step forward York Dance Space; Mud Pie Arts; Crafty Tales; Fool(ish) Improv; The Flanagan Collective and Gobbledigook Theatre; puppeteer Freddie Hayes; Cosmic Collective Theatre; performance poet Henry Raby; Say Owt Showcase, the York outlet for slam poets, word-weavers and “gobheads”; magician, juggler and children’s entertainer Josh Benson and singer Jess Gardham.
Looking back on the weather-defying patio parade of shows, executive director Tom Bird says: “It’s been brilliant to do a patio season; we’re totally over the moon with how it went. It’s just been terrific to give local artists the chance to perform, even if it’s only to 35 people each show.
“Now we’re announcing the Whistle Stop Opera performances and we’re looking to do more outdoor shows.”