Little Red and the Wolf

Most of us come to fairy tales – folk tales in general – courtesy of their so-called “traditional” retellings by Disney or the local panto. So praise be to Dundee Rep and Noisemaker for offering a positively contemporary and wonderfully life-affirming take on the story of Little Red Riding Hood.

Bursting with energy, but not afraid to slow down for the darker, scarier moments – and yes, those are well achieved, even if you're not five years old

In Little Red and the Wolf, writer and director Scott Gilmour initially plays this contemporary approach for laughs – post “huffing and puffing” wolf, the Three Little Pigs went into property investment, for example. Yet in the history class referencing other Wolf-related tales, we’re immediately introduced to one dissenting voice: young Red (Marli Siu, excellent when expressing bravery and fear simultaneously) is admonished by her teacher because she dares suggest that the grizzly fate of the Boy Who Cried Wolf “wasn’t the wolf’s fault”. In Fayble, though, wolves are always in the wrong.

As are humans when they step into the wolves’ domain, but Wolf Mother's black and white perspective puzzles “weird” young cub Lyca (a touchingly sugar-free performance by Cristian Ortega). Given their mutual outsider status, it’s no surprise that Red and Lyca meet. Initially, they flee in panic but, by doing so, confound each other’s expectations. Despite the bigotries and prejudices on both sides – personified in Ann Louise Ross’s crossbow-carrying, sudoku-loving Granny – the two youngsters become friends. Nevertheless this newfound relationship seems doomed; the Big Bad Wolf is back – feared by humans and Wolf Mother alike.

Bursting with energy, but not afraid to slow down for the darker, scarier moments – and yes, those are well achieved, even if you're not five years old – Gilmour’s script is always clear regarding action, location and the need for understanding over prejudice. Granny’s insistence that Red should always listen to her instincts might appear somewhat maudlin, but the story’s dramatic heart is what Red decides to dow when her instincts go against the perceived wisdom of her community.

Possibly above the heads of its younger audience members, the show is also happy to revel in its own theatricality: whether it’s Billy Mack's self-conscious on-stage costume changes (primarily between the roles of Mayor and the teacher Dandy) or Granny’s admonition to Red: “What do you think I was whispering for? Dramatic effect?”

Tyler Collins, Ewan Sommers and Rep stalwart Irene Macdougall round off the ensemble, each adept at switching between characters both emotionally and physically – with Darragh O'Leary's movement direction particularly effective for the wolves. The Rep's reconfigured stage – for this show, an empty square performance space surrounded on three sides by seating – becomes both a welcoming and emotive place, thanks in no small part to Richard Evans' effective design, Grant Anderson's subtle lighting and a truly immersive soundscape from composer Claire McKenzie, who provides a range of emotive, dramatic songs that drive the story along.

Given that the cast take time to chat with the younger members of their audience before the show begins, and offer plenty of reassuring eye-contact during the scarier moments, this is undoubtedly an entertaining introduction to – and a reminder, for us oldies, of – the magic of theatre. 

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

Multiple Venues

Nests

★★★
Dundee Rep Theatre / Macrobert Arts Centre

The Yellow on the Broom

★★★
Underbelly, Bristo Square

Tom Neenan: It's Always Infinity

★★★★
Assembly George Square Studios

Police Cops in Space

★★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Rik Carranza: Still a Fan

★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Marmite

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Welcome to Fayble. Just three days north of the Blue Salt Sea and in the heart of The Forgotten Forest, it’s got everything you could want from a fairytale village, except for one big, bad problem...

Wolves!

Little Red and the Wolf follows the story of Red, a young girl from Fayble who just doesn't fit in. But when Red has to visit her Granny in the woods she meets Lyca, a four-legged friend who changes everything. Can one unlikely friendship finally bring wolves and humans together? Or are the pair walking right into the Big Bad Wolf's trap?

Scott Gilmour and Claire McKenzie's adventurous new family musical takes a fresh look at a timeless fairytale classic and looks at the true power of friendship and what it’s like to be different.

Age 5+