Reviewed by Flossie Waite
A Little Angel Theatre production
Running until 16th July
For ages 7+
Almost as soon as she has begun reading, Robyn closes her book of bedtime stories, refusing to continue the tale of a kind, innocent little girl and her encounter with a horrid, bloodthirsty wolf (“They expect me to believe this mess?”). Instead, she launches into her own version of events, seen from the viewpoint of the maligned and slandered wolf. Delivered entirely in verse, and offering a mischievous, alternative take on the Red Riding Hood fairytale, I wondered for much of the play whether it was an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes (I was only sure it wasn’t when, confronted by the wolf, Miss Hood didn’t whip a pistol from her knickers). It’s unsurprising to discover that playwright Jon Barton was inspired by Dahl’s poem, though his script offers a much longer, far more radical retelling, in which Red Riding Hood is the cunning villain, and the wolf a misunderstood hero.
Robyn (Charlotte Croft) performs the story in her bedroom, using the items she finds around her – the forest’s trees are badminton rackets and cushions, Red Riding Hood’s mother is a laundry bag and an upturned toy teapot, and the wolf is her favourite stuffed animal. It’s the first time I’ve seen a show at Little Angel scaled to match the human performer rather than the puppets – the set is a life-sized bedroom with functioning furniture – and the first time I’ve seen a show in which the performer plays the central character, rather than conveying that character through puppetry. This show is about the strong-minded Robyn, and the imaginative, ingenious ways she brings the Red Riding Hood story to life, just as much as (if not more than) what that new narrative is. By transforming everyday objects into characters and scenery, Red Riding Hood and the Wolf shows its young audience that puppetry is more accessible and familiar than they may have imagined. Red Riding Hood and the Wolf is inspired by and celebrates childhood play, and will no doubt encourage it too.
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