Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Dan Bray tells a Grimm tale around the campfire

The Villains Theatre and North Barn Theatre Collective present Hänsel und Gretel outside at Shubie Campground just in time for Halloween.

Last Halloween, playwright Dan Bray was all about the zombies in his mash-up of Shakespeare and the walking dead. This year the Halifax-based writer has set his eyes on a Brothers Grimm fairy tale with his new dark comedy Hänsel und Gretel in: der Garten von Edible Horrors: a Terrible Parable.

This is a safe, socially distanced way to see a show with friends and family. Plus its short, super funny and very spooky.

But this is no Disney version of the story of the two siblings abandoned in a forest where they fall into the hands of a witch who lives in a gingerbread house.

“It is similar to what I did with Zomblet last year, by celebrating the original story but brought into the 21st-century for a 45-minute spooky story told outside around a campfire,” says Bray who also directs.

Taking place at Shubie Campground in Dartmouth following its three-night run in Antigonish, the play incorporates live-action storytelling with puppets created by the North Barn Theatre Collective.

“I had made friends with members of the Collective, and I had really wanted to work with them for a long time,” explains Bray of the collaboration. “And I thought that this would be a great opportunity to incorporate these spooky puppets into a Halloween show told in the dark and the cold.”

Hänsel und Gretel in: der Garten von Edible Horrors: a Terrible Parable
“Hallowe’en is the Villains’ favourite time of year and with North Barn Theatre’s imaginations at work, this fireside show is poised to be a spooky, funny, and magical way to safely celebrate this haunted season.” – playwright and director Dan Bray.

Bray’s focus on the Grimm fairy tale came from his interest in learning German. Having spent the last couple of years on Duolingo learning the language, Bray felt it was a great excuse to incorporate his learnings into his story.

“I find the language fascinating; I love the sound of it,” he says. “It is like Shakespearian language in a lot of ways with the structure and flow.”

Bray also found himself drawn to the fairy tale, which like many others, are typically presented to children in a sanitized version, despite the original stories being far from child-friendly.

“I find it kind of funny because these kids stories are definitely not for kids,” he says.

That isn’t to say the younger set won’t enjoy the show, although The Villians Theatre has posted a detailed content warning to help decide.

“My niece and nephew are five and eight, and they watched the rehearsal yesterday, and they seem to enjoy it,” says Bray. I think it’s pretty accessible as long they know there are a few scary puppets.”

A self-professed fan of the Halloween season, Bray sees his theatrical offering as extra special, especially as theatre starts to make a comeback this year.

“I think people are going to want to go out and do something fun for Halloween,” he says. “This is a safe, socially distanced way to see a show with friends and family. Plus its short, super funny and very spooky.”

The Villains Theatre and North Barn Theatre Collective present Hänsel und Gretel in: der Garten von Edible Horrors: a Terrible Parable at Shubie Campground (30 John Brenton Dr, Dartmouth) October 28-31 with two shows nightly. Visit villainstheatre.com for tickets and information.

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