“Who’s afraid of the big, bad wolf?”
Its spirited and whole-hearted approach will lead to this piece moving towards its own ‘happy ever after’.
Such is the musical refrain setting the playful, yet pervasively sinister, tone which permeates this piece from the outset. A devised adaptation of Angela Carter’s Gothic fairy-tale subversion, this reworking of The Company of Wolves skilfully negotiates a balance between retaining Carter’s own language, realising visually her symbolic use of colour, and introducing original set-pieces which delve deeper into the themes of transgression and predation established by the author. In so doing, the piece follows the figure of Little Red by metaphorically straying from its conventional path.
Strikingly, the world of reds, whites, and blacks, so fundamental to Carter’s system of signification, is brought to life by the company, whose fluently choreographed and adeptly performed movements ensure that these suggestions of passion, vitality, innocence and death collide and intermingle throughout. Often juxtaposing against moments of intensity are bursts of popular retro music which serve, to some extent, to heighten the raw carnality of the wolves, and are suggestive of the perceived animalistic nature of men.
In line with the historical oral tradition of fairy tales, the piece celebrates the very art of storytelling, with such Brechtian devices as multi-roling, direct address, and overt reference to technical elements joining the recurring musical episodes in encouraging a reading of the piece as an artificial product. As with Carter’s satirical style, the performance does not take itself too seriously, and therein lies much of its charm.
The work of the ensemble is pleasingly collaborative and generous, with performers gelling together harmoniously. Each actor also plays a full part as a character in their own right, though perhaps a little less successfully than during group sequences. Worth noting is the central persona of the wolf, portrayed with consummate style by Alex Britt, whose heightened physical expression and vocal articulation injects eminently watchable dynamism into each appearance.
Admittedly, and certainly forgivably for a first performance such as this, there are sporadic lapses in energy, and one or two of the devised additions to Carter’s text lack full clarity, but there is little doubt that this is an already good production will improve over the course of the run. Unquestionably, what is already demonstrated in its spirited and whole-hearted approach will lead to this piece moving towards its own ‘happy ever after’.