By Flossie Waite
tutti frutti productions and York Theatre Royal
Half Moon Theatre
11am, 23rd November
This is a play about knitting; knitting jumpers, and knitting stories. It takes the thread of Aesop’s fable, and unravels it, revealing the story of Silas. Silas spends all day in the cold hills protecting a flock of sheep now his grandfather is too old. At home, his mother struggles with her entry for the annual jumper-knitting competition. Using music, dance, storytelling and a lot of wool, the cast-of-three tell the tale of a bored boy who couldn’t help but cry wolf. However, like a jumper made by Silas’ mum, the play doesn’t quite fit.
At its heart, The Boy Who Cried Wolf is about telling tales, and the production explores this in every sense. The cast of three play characters and chorus, and their movement between telling, and dwelling within, the story highlights its construction. However, the switches are initially confusing for a play aimed at ages 3+, and makes it difficult to invest in the characters. And whilst fables require repetition to instill a lesson, this leads to the play dragging as the same ideas and words are heard and seen multiple times. Overall, the play feels very literary, but this sometimes undermines it – lyrics are at times hard to follow, for instance, and some moments are long-winded.
There is, however, plenty to admire here. The production draws together many elements – the songs and movement are particularly successful – showcasing Matthew Hamper, Thomas Edward-Bennett, and Sally Ann Staunton as extremely flexible and talented performers. The almost-entirely woolen set feels both appropriately cold and cosy. The costumes are simple and versatile, a particular favourite being the woolen hats to denote dozy sheep. Both set and costumes come together in a very lovely way during the final scene.
Individually, each part of this play is good. Another thoughtful script from Mike Kenny, extremely capable performers, and ambitious direction from Wendy Harris. Rather than just re-telling a moral, it injects motive and emotion. And yet, in sewing this all together, somewhere it loses its charm.
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