We caught up with Daisy Evans (The Telephone 2020) and to tell us more about her vision for this fun, inventive new staging of Hansel and Gretel.
The free digital Hansel and Gretel programme will be available next week, including artist biographies and articles on our most recent addition to Scottish Opera: On Screen, which premieres on Wednesday 10 February at 6pm.
INTERVIEW: DAISY EVANS
Daisy Evans reveals the thinking behind her staging of Humperdinck’s fairy-tale opera
What does Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel mean to you?
I think it’s such a wonderful opera. And I also think it sometimes suffers from people assuming it’s just for children. Its music is almost Wagnerian – it has an amazingly lush orchestral score. And it’s such a charming opera, too, almost like the early Disney movies in that there’s something in it for everyone. It’s very accessible, but it also has some quite intense topics at its core.
How would you describe the opera’s themes?
There are certainly some dark elements to it. When you see Hansel and Gretel’s parents on their own, they’re really living on the breadline – the mother seems almost ready to throttle her kids, and there’s even a suggestion of domestic violence from the father. And one of my main concerns was trying to find a moral world where it’s okay for two kids to kill an old woman!
How have you gone about depicting the Witch? And how does she fit in with your overall conception of Hansel and Gretel’s world?
I thought long and hard about the best way to present the Witch, and one that wasn’t simply a get-out-of-jail, fairytale idea. My solution is that the family, even though they’re poor, live off the land and find a lot of joy in that. They’re very environmentally conscious, and the parents don’t want their children to have bright plastic toys, or sweets full of sugar and additives. So while the parents are trying to bring up their children in a very organic, wholesome, sustainable way, the Witch is like an explosion of gaudy plastic. She turns up with a shopping trolley full to the brim with stuff we see in pound shops, brightly coloured plastic and flashing lights. When Hansel and Gretel realise the garishness of what this actually is, they understand that this is not the life they want to lead.
What kind of mood did you have in mind for the staging?
I really wanted it to be fun and joyful, even if adults will be able to see some of the opera’s darker elements within it. With the current pandemic, everybody has had a difficult Christmas, so I wanted it to be about finding joy where we can, and about families celebrating together. And I also want it to encourage people to come back to the theatre, and to bring their children with them – to make them want to be part of this experience, and to invest in it as part of our culture.
How have you gone about bringing the opera to the stage while observing our current restrictions?
I’ve been facilitating the story being told, and making it the best experience for people watching at home. We’ve still used props and costumes, although each character has their own set of props so that they don’t share them: the kids have theirs in their backpacks, the mum has a tote bag, and the dad has a wheelbarrow. The Orchestra is at the back of the stage, and there’s a two-metre strip of what I call no man’s land between them and the singers, for safety reasons. Then we’ve created a design of connecting triangles on the stage floor, so that the performers know if they’re standing two dots away from each other in any direction, they’re safe. It’s a bit more interesting than doing social distancing in terms of lines and squares. We don’t want audience members to feel that the staging has suffered because of the restrictions – instead, we wanted to come up with an interesting theatrical way of using them.
Hansel and Gretel premieres on Wednesday 10 February at 6pm.