Following the Trail of Crumbs
By Erik Abbott
In the world of traditional fairy tales, the forest is a place to be feared. Children who venture in face horrible dangers.
For Anne Simon and Isaac Bush and The Circle Theatre of New York (CTNY), where Bush is Artistic Director, those fears and dangers are source material for the impressive theatrical creation Trail of Crumbs: A Recurring Dystopia for Hansel & Gretel.
The show, the first of what one must hope will be many collaborations between CTNY and the Théâtre National du Luxembourg (TNL), opened Tuesday and continues through June 30.
In Trail of Crumbs, Hansel and Gretel are children in a war scarred land, where a brutal “revolution” rages. The family is short of food and in constant danger. Soldiers burst in and take the mother. The siblings flee – into the forest.
Eventually, they too are captured, Hansel by the national troops “defending” the country and Gretel by the insurgents seeking to overthrow the regime. Both are manipulated into taking up arms to fight for the respective “causes”.
Stunning physicality and inventive ritualistic staging
The company has created a disturbing and theatrically vivid work that both embraces the familiar bleakness of the original and transcends its mythic horror with one that is all too recognisable.
Through stunning physicality and inventive ritualistic staging, the audience is witness to the barbarism of an endless war fuelled by relentlessly stoked fear.
The cast of five is superb and work seamlessly together. Scott Freeman and Carly Blane as the unfortunate title characters artfully evolve from innocent children to cruel “soldiers”, their transition shown in repeated scenes of physical training and emotional manipulation.
Caitlin Goldie and Sloan Bradford are terrific as their comrades-in-arms, their “brothers”, their drill sergeants – their captors and torturers. Goldie and Sloan, in an inspired textual choice, also double as the children’s parents. (Goldie can also be seen in her solo work My New One Woman Show in the Fundamental Monodrama Festival’s “Monolabo”, Saturday, June 20 at the Bananne Fabrik.)
Bush, who audiences will remember from his fine turn as the title role in Killer Joe at Théâtre des Capucins in January, is the Witch, the embodiment of the evil Other children (and adults) are taught to fear.
The Witch, in this world, is also the commander – of both sides of the conflict – playing both sides against each other, glorifying the same false ideals and revelling in the resulting carnage.
The Witch is a Rocky Horror Frank N Furter-esque creature who is at once funny and charismatic and terrifying.
Bush is mesmerising in the role, embracing the inherent campiness while revealing just enough of the underlying sociopathy to create a carefully calibrated performance that weaves through and informs the piece.
Tragic familiarity, underscored with music and compelling design
Simon’s direction prevents the proceedings from wandering too far or becoming too earnest, keeping the focus on the show’s themes and, crucially, the characters’ emotional journeys. The ritualistic sense of it underscores the tragic familiarity of the story and augments its inherent theatricality.
Anne Goetz’s scenic design, Katy Atwell’s lighting, Holly Cain’s costumes and Molly Weinreb’s hair and makeup designs wonderfully combine to create a visually compelling world from the deliberately rudimentary sparseness.
It is accompanied by the unnervingly beautiful musical score written and performed by Anthime Miller (percussion from Bob Morhard and Luc Hemmer in alternating performances).
Bush said in an interview that CTNY was formed in part to create theatre the company members weren’t seeing in New York. Trail of Crumbs also represents the sort of theatre that is all too rarely seen in Luxembourg. It is most welcome.
When and Where
Trail of Crumbs: A Recurring Dystopia for Hansel and Gretel continues at TNL June 18, 19, 24, 25 and 30. Tickets: www.luxembourgticket.lu Or phone 47 08 95 1 (Monday – Friday, 10h00 – 18h30) Information: www.tnl.lu
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