Trestle Arts Base, St Albans
21 December 2013, 11.30am
I have to admit, I love Horse and Bamboo productions. Especially at Christmas.
Traditional pantos are great but sometimes it’s nice to forget the mountain of flashing tat in the foyer, renditions of chart songs shoehorned into a fairy tale and high priced tickets and go for a good story, simply but beautifully told.
This production of Red Riding Hood mixes puppets and masks with animation and actual human actors to give their own spin to the tale of the young girl’s adventures when she goes to visit her granny.
The team have used various elements of the fairy tale for their interpretation and while it is on occasion a little confusing, the basic story is there and the journey you take to get to the happy ending is just delightful.
The creativity, the use of light and sound, the expert depiction of shadow puppets and working of actual puppets and the seamless transition between different media all show that a production without high tech bells and whistles has the power to mesmerise adults and children alike.
And to do all this with just two performers makes it all the more fascinating.
The slightly confusing part for me was that the wolf appears in different modes – and made me unsure as to whether the good wolf went bad or whether it was another wolf, but nearly four-year-old V wasn’t bothered by this in the slightest so it didn’t actually matter.
The are also some great slapstick elements and in a nod to the season, the scene where the wolf tries to bake a cake at granny’s house was reminiscent of a panto cooking scene.
But it is both this “silliness” and the fun interaction with the audience that helps to balance out the dark heart of the story and make it fun.
V’s favourite part was the life-sized wolf, mine was the young girl’s papier mache mask which while having a single expression, somehow was able to depict various emotions.
The two come together for a cuddle in a particularly poignant moment that was genuinely touching.
An enchanting piece of theatre for all the family.
Run time: 55 minutes
Age range: Advertised as 4+
Other stuff: Activity sheets are available after the show plus the performers come back on stage to give all the children in the theatre a chance to meet the puppets – all for free.