Hansel and Gretel – retold and relaxed

The Royal Canadian Theatre Company has an open door policy and welcomes everyone to take part. | Photo courtesy of Ellie King

new version of Hansel and Gretel is just what the world needs at this time, says Ellie King.

There’s rotten stuff going on in the world right now, so our goal is to lighten people’s lives, to bring light through the door,” says King, who is the founder and artistic director of The Royal Canadian Theatre Company, who wrote and directed Hansel and Gretel and the Strolling Players.

The play will be playing at the Surrey Arts Centre from Dec. 21 to 30. A “relaxed” performance will also be shown on Dec. 27 .

Retelling the tale

King’s play is based on the original legend of Hansel and Gretel, with a twist.

“It’s a cautionary tale for kids. Our world is pretty dark these days, and you have to be able to warn kids to stay away from strangers without frightening them too much,” says King.

In King’s version, instead of the witch eating the two children, she turns them into elves. The children are then forced to spend an eternity making shoes.

“It’s a horrible fate and it takes the kids away from their village and puts them in a strange place where they’ll be for the rest of their lives,” says King.

This version of the play makes a statement about the global
issue of childhood labour, while teaching a lesson to children to stay away from strangers. As a mother and grandmother, King says she wanted to have a slightly concealed message in the show.

“It’s important to me to try and give kids direction without hitting them over the head with a stick,” she says.

The play consists of supernatural entities, a journey the prota-gonist must undertake, complete with obstacles and a final showdown between good and evil.

“One of my goals is to keep the tradition of the real British panto alive,” King explains.

A relaxed performance

Ellie King says art should not be an add-on to life, art is an integral part of life. | Photo courtesy of Ellie King

After hearing about relaxed performances on CBC, King was
inspired to incorporate the practice so she could cater to those who may have trouble sitting through a regular performance.

“We invite everybody who otherwise might not be welcomed to a regular performance,” she says. “I can’t force people to sit still while somebody is making a noise. But I don’t want to make that same person making a noise leave because they’re [likely] making a noise because they’re having a good time.”

The first relaxed performance, says King, based on instinct, was a huge success.

“The cast, crew and myself and the staff at the Surrey Arts Centre found it really moving,” she says.

For these performances, before the show starts, the cast, crew and King all come out on stage. The actors, although in costume, are not in character during this time and explain certain scenes such as a sword fight, to alleviate any fear.

There is also a quiet place in the theatre where people can go and relax if they feel anxious.
Relaxed performance tickets have been reduced in price to make these performances available for everyone.

An open door policy

Relaxed shows are perfect for the Royal Canadian Theatre Company, whose value statement of the Company is three words: respect, inclusivity and excellence.

“We have a wonderful familial team in the company, and we like to extend that feeling to our audiences,” King says.

The Company offers free mentorship to anyone interested, in all departments. “Youngsters who want to try their hand can come in. We teach them singing, dancing and acting,” says King.

Anyone can audition for a performance, regardless of whether they have experience.

“We practice an open door
policy, so nobody is excluded. We’re a family,” King says. “That’s all I ask, respect for what we’re doing, for who we are, and for everyone involved.”

For more information: www.rctheatreco.com