Review: Red Riding Hood and the Wolf at HOME
- Writer Jon Barton's first production for Little Angel Theatre.
- Red Riding Hood and the Wolf plays on the traditional story but with a mischievous spin.
The ragged, puppet-wolf is a wimp. Red Riding Hood is a demon-like doll. Grandma is her evil accomplice and a crazed taxidermist, and her mother a psycho.
It was authentic, strange and absolutely adorable.
Written by Jon Barton, the show took inspiration from stories by Roald Dahl where “rascals” take center stage – and this was shown perfectly in all characters, homemade and real.
The theatre, inside the ultra-modern HOME, was smaller than imagined. Still, seats were left empty. Whether this was due to the showtime or day, one thing I know for sure is that it was not down to a lack in professionalism; the years of perfecting the craft by Little Angel Theatre were plain to see.
As the lights dimmed for the show’s start, main character Robyn - played by Charlotte Croft - entered the stage in a wolf dressing gown, PJ pants and mismatched socks and began to sneak around her room defying her mother’s orders to go to bed.
The stage setup mimicked a child’s bedroom with bright coloured bed sheets, a dolls house and a pink wardrobe. It was simple, yet transformative… We later see Robyn turn her bedroom into a forest made of badminton rackets and boat oars, and the wardrobe becomes a shadowbox.
The not-so-big-bad-wolf made his appearance as a teddy to accompany Robyn at bedtime. She sets him down on the bedside table and starts to read Little Red Riding hood before stopping to ask the audience “Do you know Red Riding Hood?”. The audience engagement was minimal but effective, professional not panto.
We see the make-believe story introduced as all classics do, with “Once upon a time”. Here, rhymes ensue as Robyn tells the story of the hard-done-by wolf who lost his brotherhood.
The show’s best bits came from Hood herself. She was evil, and it was utterly brilliant. She shouts down a walkie talkie to her Grandma: “Kill the wolf, throw him in the stew, or put him on the BBQ!” in a wicked witch-like voice, collecting giggles from the audience.
The way sound effects are introduced was a favourite, too. From the little red piano for the wolf’s “woe is me” song to the yellow toy car that introduced full scale police siren chaos, the audience is placed firmly within the story.
In the audience, the majority were adults even though the show was clearly created for children. And with a run time of 50 minutes, it’s the perfect time for kids to watch without getting restless.
Yet this wasn’t strictly the case. The youngest children sat still for a total of 10 minutes before realising there wasn’t going to be a real, howling wolf present. The puppet wolf wasn’t enough, so the theatre became an obstacle course for them as the show somewhat lacked the stimulation they needed.
But most importantly, it was clever. The adults could appreciate the witty, dark humour and the older kids sat in awe; laughing when it was funny, silent at the dramatic peaks.
The end note was a positive, educational one too: judging people based on looks or foreign feature is wrong, and ultimately, it is much better to forgive. Finally, Robyn climbed into bed, the lights went out, and the audience were pleasantly satisfied.