On a brief look online it seems that Nottingham Playhouse’ Neville Studio production of Little Red Riding Hood is selling well and many of the future performances have sold out. This is great news as such shows are traditionally aimed at the younger children 3-8 years old and certainly from the earlier age bracket the traditional panto may be a bit overwhelming.
After note: Since writing this review I have been made aware that the Neville Studio venue has capped each performance to thirty audience members per showing and this makes my previous now deleted comment about low audience figures on the day redundant. My apologies for this incorrect information.
Where Little Red Riding Hood does work is in the upbeat songs and music written by Wayne Walker Allen (lyrics by Sarah Middleton) and performed by Carolyn Murray and Josie White. The traditional story of Little Red Riding Hood has been given a modern slant and like pretty much all fairy stories it has a message hidden within. This show’s message is about caring for the environment and in particular the forests and its wild animals. This type of enviro-message would appeal to the older children aged six to eight. It’s also about learning to be strong, finding your personal strengths and how that can be interpreted as an individual and especially for a young girl like Lil (Josie White).
At the outset of the show Lil’s Granny (Carolyn Murray) asks the few kids in the audience to be quiet because it is Lil’s 8th birthday and Granny wants the audience to surprise her. Granny has given Lil some unusual presents, an axe, a long red rope and a torch, all of which she puts in her bright red rucksack. Lil is delighted with her gifts and is desperate to work as a woodcutter with Chip the local big bearded lumberjack. Unfortunately Chip doesn’t care a hoot about the environment and forests. A side screen with cartoon elements tells us this. He just wants to clear the whole forest and build houses and offices and roads. Chip and his belittling macho team write to Lil and tell her to take a hike; she is too young; she is not strong enough and only men can do the type of work they do. Bad Chip. Upset and confused, Lil sets off to visit Granny at her home in the depths of the woods, near the big oak, to return the gifts. On the way she meets Wulfrick the ever-hungry wolf played by Murray. Wulfrick is a friendly wolf but has a huge appetite and wolfs down anything meaty with unbridled abandon.
Their amusing exchanges lead to a kind of friendship until, yes you’ve got it, Wulfrick ‘accidently’ eats Granny up in a Snaccident. The children in the audience are included in a tug of war as they use Lil’s new rope to pull Granny out of Wulfrick’s tummy. Granny, being the generous type of person she is, forgives the wolf and bakes endless fairy story pies to keep the wolf from starvation and any more unfortunate life threatening Snaccidents.
Granny then gives Lil a red coat with a hood and Lil makes the decision to use the presence of the live wolf living in the woods to stop Chip and his bad boyz forest demolishing gang in their tracks. Hurrah!
The show is approximately 50 minutes long, written by Sarah Middleton, directed by Kitty Winter and designed by Ella Barraclough. There are environmental elements spoken about in the text of the script that will be well over the heads of the 3- 5 year olds but will be taken on board by the older children as they are taught about climate change and de-forestation at school. The set isn’t quite as bright, colourful and inventive as in previous years but this change in design style is overcome by colourful dynamically led performances.
Little Red Riding Hood runs at Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 1st January 2022.