Thursday, 13 November 2014

Hans Christian: You Must Be An Angel, Nov 13, 2014 ****

By Teatret Gruppe (Denmark)
Arts Centre Melbourne, Nov 12 to 16, 2014 
Reviewer: Kate Herbrt 
Stars: ****
I am not reviewing this for Herald Sun. Please forgive the speed at which I've written this review. I wanted to get it down before I lost the magic. KH 
I’ve never seen a children’s show quite like Hans Christian: You Must Be An Angel – and I’ve seen a heck of a lot of kids’ theatre. 

Danish company, Teatret Gruppe, creates a world of wonder and magic and illusion created by two waiters who serve at a celebratory dinner at an enormous table at which sit Hans Christian Andersen and a parade of characters from his fairytales.

The two charming actors (Bodil Alling and Peter Seligmann) are supported by technicians (Søren la Cour, Søren Søndberg, Lars K. Olesen), two of whom are secreted under the table from where they control the technical magic that we witness above.

We don’t see the characters, but each table setting has an empty chair and place setting, cutlery, glasses and items that signify a specific character from a beloved fairytale.

At the head of the table, Hans Christian Andersen writes his stories with a white, feathered quill while, simultaneously, his elegant handwriting appears scrawled across his plate.

Before I ruin the illusion for you, here is what we see as we (60 kids and me) lurk around the table, peering over shoulders, lurking as the character come to life in our imaginations.

When the Emperor (From Emperor’s New Clothes) trumpets for his dinner, his antique, silver cutlery suddenly leaps to attention on the table and the Emperor himself appears naked on a tiny screen beside his place setting.

Tiny, blue fish swim in the Little Mermaid’s wine glass and the Snow Queen seethes with rage making smoke drift across the table from her glass.

The snowman melts as children touch his solid ice plate, the chicken woman cracks her egg and rats leap out from a manhole.

The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg squawks, a frog hops along the table and splashes into Thumbelina’s plate and a Fir Tree loses it needles but leaves its piney scent behind.

The Little Match Girl lights her matches and is finally taken by Death, who sits quietly beside her.

All this conjuring is created not only by the soothing voices of the actors but by the collusion with the hidden technicians and the tiny, unobtrusive projectors at each place setting, hidden switches and secret trapdoors in the table.

This show left me open-mouthed throughout as every new character and each new trick of light, illusion and technology revealed itself.

I loved this show. Loved it.

By Kate Herbert

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