Review | Red Riding Hood and the Wolf who tried to eat her

This review was written for Animations Online

In Deborah Jones’ new version of the well known tale (and her first script for marionettes), the Wolf and Granny take centre stage. He’s a complicated character, in the midst of an existential crisis and, ultimately, on a journey of reform. She is a faded opera diva who is retreating more and more into her glittering past. It is their frustrations and sadness that give the story its interest and depth, perhaps particularly for the adults in the audience. Using wooden, long string marionettes on their signature Puppet Barge stage, Movingstage carefully unfurl Jones’ layered story of love and loss.

The play begins with Red Riding Hood, in crushed velvet cape, twisting out her first wobbly tooth. She is determined to give it to her grandmother, because Granny has a gap in her own teeth that lets the wind whistle through and ruins her singing. The tooth fairy – a bored spirit called Stan made of silver and glass – is unable to resist and whisks the tooth away. But in the end he agrees to let Hood have it back as long as he can accompany her on a brave trip to Granny’s cottage in the woods.

Red Riding Hood here is a feisty character, with Robin Hood style ambitions to grow up into a highway man who robs from the greedy rich and gives back to the poor. Her first encounter with the Wolf sees her quickly realise she’s not scared of him and, in fact, conscious of his misery, resolved to make him happy. It’s a fearless kindness that makes the Wolf wild.

We first meet Granny chopping wood, with her delightful pet owl in attendance. Every second word is “damn” or “blast” as she bemoans her inability to stay awake, and admits the past holds more appeal for her now than the present. It’s immediately obvious where Hood gets her feistiness and ambition from. Forgetful Granny sets out into the woods, leaving her cottage empty and ripe for the Wolf to pull off his trick.

The set is simple but effective, small in width but long in depth, allowing for gauzy layers and good perspective. The main characters are all marionettes but there is shadow and rod puppetry too. The production is atmospheric, maybe even a little scary (in a good way) for younger ones; the puppeteering nuanced and adept. The ending is a happy one, of course, with Red Riding Hood now blessed with two grannies, one of which is distinctly wolfish.

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