Dark fairytale’s not too scary for the tots

Red Riding Hood at The Pleasance Theatre. Picture: Garry Lake

Red Riding Hood at The Pleasance Theatre. Picture: Garry Lake - Credit: Archant

This superior mini musical plays out a dark fairytale without being too scary for the tots, says Bridget Galton.

Five committed performers sing and dance their hearts out in this jolly hour-long take on what is a rather dark fairytale.

With hummable original songs and a witty book by Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary, this is a superior mini musical for children raised on Disney, but earthed with a more playful British humour. (There are gags on deforestation and post-modern references to the Wizard of Oz.)

The pre-story has Little Red (a perky Nazarene Williams) happily helping in her parents’ bakery until the mysterious disappearance of dad sends their fortunes downhill.

Charged by her depressed mother with taking a basket of cakes to grandmother’s house, (cue the lovely, catchy lullaby ‘Make Things Better’) she meets Matthew Barrow’s camply wily wolf who diverts her from her path towards Matthew Jay-Ryan’s sweetly forgetful William the Woodcutter. He sings of his book of ‘important things; magic spells that will come in handy as the wolf darts ahead to swallow granny whole.

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There’s just enough jeopardy for a four-year-old to bear as the nicely harmonised urgency of getting to grandmother’s house had mine on the edge of her seat. Director Kate Gollege takes care not to traumatise the teenies too much as Little Red is tied up rather than savaged by a wolf who’s more oily than scary. With the help of a puppet parrot and a trick bed she hauls granny out of the beast’s belly.

There’s no woodcutter slicing the wolf either; instead a well-signposted device around a poisonous flower combined with William’s magic book restore a satisfying happy ending.

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Simon Well’s versatile set of trees that reverse to create cottage interiors makes the most of the small space. The only grumble is they should encourage more audience participation – boos and cheers – and either take more time or simplify the dance they taught us at the end.

Rating: 4/5

Until January 3

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