Ambling onto screens with a wiggle and a shake of its gingerbread bottom for this weekend only, the CBeebies Christmas Show: Hansel & Gretel is a gentle and festive outing for very little ones.
Bookended by a wander through the woods with the broad, recognisable smile and safe hands of Justin Fletcher, the majority of this feature takes place at a live recording of this year’s CBeebies panto filmed at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre. With shots of the stage and audience to establish location and atmosphere before the POV settles down to primarily watch from a few rows back, CBeebies’ take on Hansel & Gretel offers a nice (and ever-reliable way) way to introduce the art form to younger audiences.
With Mr Bloom conspicuous by his absence (sorry mums) the first friendly faces to greet young fans are Andy Day as Truffle and Maddie Moate as Willow, a pair of very enthusiastic trees. The action in this Hansel & Gretel takes place in the 1980s so expect plenty of ski wear and prepare a whispered explanation of what walkmans are, just in case.
Hansel (Joshua Haynes, Molly and Mack) and Gretel (Cat Sanditon, CBeebies) have reluctantly followed their bonkers family deep into the woods to cut down a Christmas tree. The Crimble elders – parents and grandparents – believe that the way to save their frugal Crimble Christmas from being a real flop is to find the perfect fir. The kids disagree.
Waffle (the Wonderdog) joins the adventure too, along with Grandpa Crimble’s (William Vanderpuye) emergency sandwich. Both may come in useful because the siblings are soon separated from the Crimble clan and they’re sure of a big surprise as they are not the only ones who’ve gone down to the woods today…
As family entertainment CBeebies Christmas Show: Hansel & Gretel is, on the whole, pretty safely painted by numbers. The cast comprises jolly, happy sorts who your young charges are likely to know. Through their enthusiasm and the tactical sanding down of Hansel & Gretel’s rougher subject matter, the story bobs along amiably enough.
Jennie Dale’s witch is a scene-stealing highlight, nabbing the catchiest song AND nailing the purplest outfit. While the mild horror of alternative supper plans for Hansel and Gretel is made manageable by an early introduction of her Delicious Children song during Justin’s prologue. The production imparts vague but presumably valuable messages about never giving up but its real value lies in the joyful reactions of the onscreen audience.
This film is clearly not for us but HeyUGuys found most of Justin’s attention-grabbing screentime far more horrible than the notion of cooking children. The minutes would have been better spent rehearsing the bum waggling dance and giving some Hansel & Gretel fairytale context. The lack of both these tutorials were unfortunate holes in an otherwise sweet show.
Best suited to audience members aged 2-6, CBeebies Christmas Show: Hansel & Gretel is a budget-friendly way to start the Christmas season at the theatre and an engaging film for first-time cinemagoers.
CBeebies Christmas Show: Hansel & Gretel has showings at UK cinemas on Saturday 30th November and Sunday 1st December before heading to BBC iPlayer