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Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood

A workmanlike (workwomanlike?) two-hander for young children, Sarah Middleton’s take on Little Red Riding Hood packs three messages we don’t usually associate with this story: conserve the environment, allow girls the same opportunities as boys and recognise that strength isn’t necessarily physical. It’s a lot to do in 45 minutes.

Carolyn Murray is a homely Granny who brings Lil (Josie White) a birthday present and then goes home. Lil then needs to visit her on the other side of the forest. Said forest is under threat from developers so they decide to start a rumour that there scary wolves therein despite everyone knowing that wolves only inhabit Russia, Ukraine, USA, Canda and so on. The list of countries is repeated several times in the course of the play.

Murray gives us a nice wolf (Wulfric) in a big headdress (costumes and set by Ella Barraclough) with a habit of eating friends because of an incessantly rumbling tummy. The doubling with Granny makes for a very neat bed scene in which audience children help to tug Granny out of the wolf with a rope. At the end Wulfric’s urges are sated with a vegetarian (sort of – it includes chicken) pie and the wood becomes a wolf sanctuary.

The acting is convincing enough for pre-schoolers and both actors have reasonable audience connection skills. The singing isn’t great however. Although the words to Wayne Walker-Allen’s songs are clever and clearly articulated neither performer actually sings. White, in particular simply speaks in rhythm against the music and it’s uneven. Murray has a bit more range but she’s no singer.

I’ve been to Nottingham Playhouse several times but this was my first visit to its Neville Studio, a good space clearly useful for small scale work, It was a pity, though, that at the performance I saw there were only 13 adults and 11 children present: about one third of the capacity. I suppose that’s Covid fears and positive tests biting.