Theatre review: Red Riding Hood at the Little Angel Theatre

Angela Carter surely would have approved of this ingenious production by a visiting puppet theatre

Norwich Puppet Theatre’s interpretation of the classic fairytale begins in the midst of the company of wolves.

As a single delicately carved wolf’s head multiplies into a pack, they howl, and sniff the air for fresh meat.

Drawing on oral variations of the tale as well as the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault’s re-tellings, Tim Kane’s adaptation is almost entirely female, the only male presence being the wolf.

While the wolves howl outside, a discombobulated grandmother tells her granddaughter the story of the diminutive heroine in a red cloak on her first dangerous journey through the forest alone.

Peter O’Rourke’s puppets are nimbly manipulated and engagingly voiced by Zannie Fraser and Shane Connolly. With their long and bony limbs, gaunt faces and sunken eyes, there’s a strong sense of the hardship of life and the charcoal burners’ back-breaking work, while the wolf has a mop for a body and tail. The melancholy atmosphere is heightened by Ben Glasstone’s music, the loveliest being Granny’s herb song, which also has enough upbeat moments to prevent the proceedings from becoming mournful.

Comic relief is found in the gossipy washerwomen Maureen and Joyce, who become inadvertent heroines as Granny’s rescuers in place of the woodcutter. Such ingenuity befits the female-centric emphasis that Angela Carter surely would have approved of.

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* The Norwich Puppet Theatre’s production is at the Little Angel Theatre, in Dagmar Passage, N1, until February 19.