Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Through a mixture of choreographed theatre, an a capella vocal score and old fashioned dialogue Peculius Stage bring their own quirky deviation on the tale of Little Red Riding Hood to the Fringe.
Hood! is Peculius Stage’s take on The Brothers Grimm fairytale, Little Red Riding Hood. Described by director Callum Cheatle as ‘an hour of fiercely family-friendly theatre set in an enchanting swamp where the sweaty, smelly good-for-nothing inhabitants adopt a penchant for energetic storytelling’, this manifests as choreographed physical theatre set to an original a capella vocal score. There is a clever twist in the tale which resonates, throwing into question our response to victims and perpetrators, but perhaps most of all this a play about family.
The cast clearly enjoy throwing themselves physically and vocally into their parts – so much so that for quite a while they seem so enamoured of their clucking and grunting that it takes them a while to discover their penchant for storytelling. When they do, however, their physical enthusiasm is put to good use. Granny’s house in particular is wonderfully well done as they literally create a living, breathing world in which anything and everything could happen. Lighting is brilliantly employed to make a stark contrast between the shadowy darkness of the forest and the warmth and heat of Granny’s, enough to make you feel as though you had come indoors into the warm. Scott Westwood as The Wolf is suitably sauve yet menacing, and Olivia Stuart-Taylor provides eye candy for any dads dragged along as she crawls over the stage in hotpants as Granny’s cat. In fact, all the cast are very engaging, whether being swamp things or grandfather clocks, doing credit to the inventive choreography.
I tried to think of the extended a capella scores in the same way as I would songs in a musical, but couldn’t quite manage it. Songs in a musical are integral to and further the narrative, these by contrast just seemed to be revelling in making noise. It’s not that it doesn’t work, it’s just that the time spent on wordless aaaaah-aaaaahhhhhs is disproportionate to the amount of time spent on plot, and it isn’t as well integrated as it should be. What would be an interesting and even exciting device employed more judiciously instead had me squirming in my seat, wondering if the noise would ever stop and feeling like my ears were about to start bleeding. I’m not sure if a child would be more or less tolerant, but I for one would be wary of taking a small person with a matching attention span. That said, I saw plenty of children sat very politely through the whole show, so perhaps I’m underrating everyone concerned. All I can say is that it was a bit much for me.
Ear-bleeding aside, this is a genuinely inventive play that brought some of its own magic to offer a fresh take on an old tale, which is no mean feat considering how often fairy tales are adapted. It’s well staged and engagingly performed, and while there really is something there for all the family, the twist at the end will resonate long after the play is over for a lot of parents.