Poor Hansel and Gretel! Abused in their home, abandoned in the forest, kidnapped by a witch who planned on eating them. Both tormented by the witch, who kept Hansel in a cage and forced Gretel to take him food to fatten him up.
This horrific story is often told to children and, in fact, the very first theatre experience I ever had was a touring pantomime of Hansel and Gretel. I must have been about 4 or 5.
Television hadn’t yet arrived in our Far North Queensland village, so it was an especially glamourous treat for my family to travel to the small town nearly to watch a matinee performance.
And as my first experience of the power of live theatre, it overwhelmed me. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t entertaining. It was just terrifying, and I simply had no faith that any child could display the power of thought and action necessary to defeat an adult—as Gretel does, by shoving the witch into her own oven.
Now—decades later—I’m thinking of the role played by food in this story, collected by the Grimm Brothers and first published in 1812. Continue reading