Linda Kirby brings the drama, thrills and excitement of this much-loved children’s tale to life with an all-singing, all-dancing version at the Colour House Theatre.
The story of Little Red Riding Hood is re-imagined with a modern twist, as the action revolves around a pie shop belonging to Lil Red’s grandmother. Sadly, the celebrated pies have gone missing. Lil Red and her friend, Squirrel, try to track down the pie thief while the Wolf, aka Wolf It Down, lurks in the background as chief suspect.
Meanwhile Grandma is sick and the doting grand-daughter must negotiate her way through the woods to visit her. There are songs, dancing and laughs along the way as Lil Red desperately tries to help her poorly grandmother and, as an interesting sub-plot, discover the secret recipe to her pies.
The children and parents who came to watch the afternoon show enjoyed the numerous opportunities for audience interaction, too, as they were encouraged to warn Squirrel of the villainous wolf ‘behind you’, pantomime-style.
The all-important element of fun was present in almost all of the scenes, most notably with a catchy number called ‘Love to Dance’, featuring some very impressive disco moves from Lil Red, looking fetching in a shiny red cloak, ably assisted by the Handsome Woodcutter (Alfie Rowland).
The intimacy of the venue may have had something to do with it, but the staging options at times appeared limited: at one point, Lil Red is seen sitting on a swing, and later, Grandma (and the Wolf, in the infamous scene, dressed as Grandma) sits on her rocking chair. But other than that, the action generally took place against the backdrop of a standard painted board.
Helena Gullan impressed with an infectious combination of smiles, energy and a beautifully clear and lively speaking voice, that encouraged the young audience members to engage with the action with gusto. Her musical skills also featured with a cameo on the violin, adding an extra dimension to the performance.
Alfie Rowland produced a humorous turn that had something for children and grown-ups alike, as the hip flask-swigging Grandma, while the gruff James Furlong displayed a formidable passion for pies as Wolf-It Down.
A moral dimension was evident in various take-home messages for children about behaviour and safety, which cropped up in both the spoken dialogue and song lyrics: don’t talk to strangers, be kind to your grandma, and make pies (among other things) with love in your heart.
The cast’s comic timing keeps the pace ticking over nicely, and at one hour, this family-friendly production was just the right length, with a winning blend of music, drama, and audience interaction to provide a great introduction to theatre for young children.
- Children Theatre
- By Linda Kirby
- Directed by Charlie Shakespeare
- Cast includes: Helena Gullan, James Furlong, Alfie Rowland, Ishia Osborne
- Colour House Children’s Theatre, Merton, London
- Until 13th April 2014
- Review by Daniel Lombard
- 12 April 2014