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30th November 2023

Little Red review: A magical and festive retelling for all ages

A musical delight that will transport you to a magical land and will make you feel like a kid again
Little Red review: A magical and festive retelling for all ages
Credit: Little Red @ Theatre Porto and HOME

This latest adaptation of the beloved tale of Little Red Riding Hood is not one to miss. A musical delight that will transport you to a magical land and make you feel like a kid again.

We all know the story; it’s a tale as old as time. Little Red Riding Hood ventures into the forest to see her sickly Grandma, but the Big Bad Wolf is hungry and has other plans. But if you think you’ve seen it all before- think again. This new adaptation by Kevin Dyer puts a heartwarming twist on the beloved classic and promises to keep you warm and joyful this Christmas.

Originally commissioned by Unity Theatre, Theatre Porto’s acclaimed musical arrives at HOME Theatre just in time for the festive season, under the direction of Nina Hajiyianni and musical direction by Patrick Dineen. 

The moment you enter the theatre, you realise that this production will be nothing short of magical as the misty, woodland atmosphere veils the entire space and the performers energetically jump on stage to sing the opening number. The all-female ensemble made up of Fatima Jawara, Francesca Anderson, Stephanie Greer, and Anoush Kendrick masterfully commands the stage during the narrative, physical and musical numbers, moving in beautifully choreographed sequences.  

The visual storytelling in this piece is an absolute showstopper – the ensemble’s every movement and transition actively creates narrative and inhabits the space in a way that is both clever and engaging. The way the set services the narrative is rendered seamless by the work of designer Elizabeth Wright: the trees bend and twist, luring the protagonist deeper and deeper into the forest and magically transforming into Grandma’s old cottage – leaving the younger audience gasping and wowing.

Director Nina Hajiyianni’s decision to cast a female actor for the role of ‘Wolfie’ in this iteration of the show is one that certainly pays off. While the role is usually played by a male actor, Stephanie Greer’s performance is energetic and humorous – making it a refreshing and more nuanced depiction. This gentle wolf in a suit charms both Little Red and the audience with its over-the-top musical numbers and is altogether much less of a villain than the traditional tale makes us believe.

Much of this shift is thanks to the work of writer Kevin Dyer who, in this adaptation, manages to remain loyal to the classic tale while simultaneously adding humour and recontextualising some of the story’s traditional themes. In this version, Dyer holds the woodcutters and hunters accountable for destroying the forest and chopping down the wolves’ natural habitat, limiting their ability to get food and stay alive. The ending of the play counterbalances the original as Little Red, an empathetic, bold young woman, encourages her mother and grandmother to spare the wolf and gives her a pie before sending her on her way. The text does a brilliant job of introducing wider themes such as animal cruelty and deforestation to younger audiences with subtlety and lightness, without detracting from the narrative but rather enriching it. 

Altogether then, the play’s greatest strength is its ability to effectively and joyfully engage young audiences while being accessible to all (there are Relaxed, Captioned, and BSL performances available throughout the run). As Little Red is playing with the wolves and they enter a “howling competition”, the performers turn to the audience and invite them to get up on stage to take part, causing herds of kids to rush onto the stage and give it their best shot alongside the actors. The songs were also a big hit with the younger audience members who were engaged to the point of singing along, gasping, and loudly commenting on the action on stage. 

But even if aimed at a younger audience, the story is definitely no less enjoyable for people of all ages as parents and grandparents laughed alongside the kids and some even got up on stage themselves to have a go at the ‘howling challenge’. Ultimately, the performance was sweet, fresh, and nostalgic – an opportunity to immerse oneself in a good old fairytale and experience that magic again. In that theatre, we were all kids again, even if it was just for one night!

You can catch the timeless magic of Little Red at HOME Theatre until December 6, 2023, as part of Christmas at HOME 2023.

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