First published in The Times, Friday December 4 2015
There have been enough retellings and parodies of Little Red Riding Hood to nearly constitute an entire genre. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the woods, along comes this startling piece of dance theatre, created by the Glasgow-based company Barrowland Ballet, which compels its audience to look anew at the caped heroine and her lupine adversary.
Little Red, choreographed by Natasha Gilmore with text by the playwright Robert Alan Evans, contains all the recognisable ingredients of Charles Perrault’s folk tale, with the narrative distilled to a series of set pieces, resonant images and recurring motifs. The opening moments explore the possibilities and perils of childhood, with the three performers – Jade Adamson, Kai Wen Chuang and Vince Virr – exploding the stage in a joyous game of rough-and-tumble, stretching their bodies as they attempt to grasp things that are out of reach before gravity pulls them back down again. A delightful voiceover articulates the title character’s innermost frustrations: “I wish everybody would stop calling me little,” she grumbles.
Pic: Ian Watson
Like all the best fairy stories, this one has a dark underbelly, and before long, our trio of Little Reds is embarking on a treacherous journey through a forest of precariously stacked chairs, designed by Fred Pommerehn, armed with no more effective weapon than a box of Bakewell tarts.
Though there is a moment of true darkness in the wolf’s fatal encounter with the grandmother, this is quickly undercut by a hilarious sequence, performed by Virr to Frank Sinatra’s version of I Got You Under My Skin, in which the wolf, strains to defecate a walking stick, a ball of wool and a pair of spectacles, which he then pops on his nose – “all the better to see you with, my dear.” This scene typifies the company’s irreverent approach to a classic, which pays dividends in the delighted reaction of the young audience.