Like many of the folk stories collected by the Brothers Grimm, and published for children, there is a disturbing tale at the heart of Hansel and Gretel.

Engelbert Humperdinck’s fairy tale opera sees children lost in a forest, kidnapped by a cannibalistic witch, and fattened for the oven.

Directors have a choice to go full on for the macabre or, sugar coat it and present it as gateway opera for young people. In deciding on the latter, HGO’s Jeannne Pansard-Besson has produced a visually startling and enchanting show.

Ham & High: HGO perform Hansel and Gretel at Jacksons LaneHGO perform Hansel and Gretel at Jacksons Lane (Image: Laurent Compagnon)

Alexandra Meier (Hansel) and Felicitas Wrede (Gretel) are perfectly matched with superb voices. They delivered nuanced and thoughtful performances as the abandoned but enterprising pair, who prevail over evil and live to tell the tale.

Act 2’s Evening Prayer duet was one of many standout highlights, but in a production packed with great performances, it's Mae Heydom who steals the show as their mother Gertrud, doubling as Die Knusperhexe (The Nibble Witch).

Her powerful voice and awesome stage presence, bring menace and knowing humour to the evening. Both the Sandman (Amelia Langley) and The Dew Fairy (Marie Cayeux) impressed as the lost children's magical supporters and Thomas Payne’s excellent HGO Orchestra supplied their own musical wizardry.

Ham & High: The modern setting and Barbie pink tones distracted rather than adding to an otherwise excellent showThe modern setting and Barbie pink tones distracted rather than adding to an otherwise excellent show (Image: Laurent Compagnon)

Every director brings their own interpretation to the party, and Pansard-Bresson has grabbed her opportunity, perhaps confusingly modernising the timeless traditional tale.

In the opening scene, instead of a humble cottage in the woods we get Gap for Kids meets IKEA. Later, we meet the kitschiest witch on a London stage – all puce and pink, and channelling Barbie, while The Gingerbread House has become the Candy-floss Cottage.

While I am all for inventiveness, this whimsical reimagining wasn't always applied coherently, and distracted rather than adding to an otherwise excellent production.

HGO performs Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at Jacksons Lane Highgate from November 15-19.