Presented by Scrambled X Theatre Co
Reviewed 20 February 2018
Gretel is an original play devised by Year 10 students from Eltham High School in Victoria. This drama ensemble has been performing since they were in Year 7 and this show is an exciting and energetic performance by 14 female students. A Q&A session followed the lunchtime performance and the audience learned more about the process of bringing Gretel’s story to life.
The ensemble presents a feminist view of the classic hero tale, referring back to fairy stories – Hansel and Gretel of course, but also Cinderella, The Three Little Pigs plus classic tales such as The Illiad and Cu Chulainn (a mythical Irish hero). In this story Gretel is alone, having no brother Hansel. The use of the word ‘hero’ and the male heroes in the classical tales are deliberate choices as the cast are making the point that heroic virtues and attributes are not gender specific.
At the start we see the young women of the village repressed and fearful, too afraid to even respond to their new teacher. She opens up new horizons and possibilities for the girls through books and teaching them about the world outside the village. This results in harsh punishment for the teacher and her pupils as only the only book allowed is ‘The Good Book’.
Gretel is punished more harshly than the other girls as her father is head of the village and she runs away. Now we see the familiar tropes which accompany any hero’s quest. In the forest the trees taunt her and add to her fear. But Gretel remains stoic and is aided on her journey by The Crow, a quasi magical creature who brings her a special book.
As in the original story there is a Witch, who may have a special relationship to Gretel. But she is not the witch of the original fairy story, not cruel but rather helping Gretel to be strong. An interesting point is made by the witch when she declares she doesn’t like that title as it is one devised by men when they are afraid of women.
It is not surprising that men generally do not fare well in this tale as not only are these teenagers talented performers, they also belong to the feminist collective know as the Violet Fems. I have no doubt we will be seeing these young women gracing stage and screen in not too many years.
Reviewed by Jan Kershaw
Venue: The Bakehouse 255 Angas St
Season: 20, 22, 23 February at 1pm 21, 24 February at 6pm
Duration: 60 mins PG
Tickets: $23, conc $18
Bookings: FringeTIX www.adelaidefringe.com.au