Breathing new life into a fairy tale

Words by Jon Barton, writer of ‘Red Riding Hood and the Wolf’ a new production for ages 5+ at Little Angel Theatre this spring.

It is a cautionary tale for all time. A little girl in a red cloak, hoodwinked by a Big Bad Wolf. There are countless variations of Red Riding Hood. It has been told and retold all over the world. But my earliest memory of the story was not the traditional one. Picture if you will, a chubby little boy tucked into bed with dreams of staying up quashed, not by exhaustive attempts at doing so, but by the pleasure of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. It is one of my fondest memories of my father, relishing every word adopting the voice of the characters. It was pure Theatre in the making.

What if I could breathe fresh life into the story, enhancing its power, the way my father enhanced it for me?

The genius of Revolting Rhymes is simple. What if there were other versions of known stories, where the seven dwarves bet on the horses and Miss Hood kept a pistol in her knickers? It is no coincidence that Dahl gave villains the driest wit, and my father performed the Wolf’s dulcet drawling dialogue with aplomb. Perhaps it is why the Wolf has always stayed with me; not as a villain, but as unlikely hero to my father and me.

When Samantha Lane, Little Angel Theatre’s Artistic Director, asked me to write a new version of Red Riding Hood, I leapt at the chance. But why alter the story? Why mess with a winning formula? Perhaps channelling the Wolf, I toyed with another viewpoint. What if I could breathe fresh life into the story, enhancing its power, the way my father enhanced it for me? It was also of course, an opportunity to vindicate the Wolf. After all, why was he alone in the wood, when wolves hunt in packs in the wild? Can he help the way he’s been drawn in parables?

The Wolf as Hero. This is the beating heart of our new production at Little Angel Theatre.

I have always loved stories. The good ones have ways of lodging themselves. Of wending into your mind and finding a quiet corner. Storytelling is transactional. That is what gives it potency. Stories live for the telling, and mean all things to all people in the moment of that telling. This is the reason we go to the Theatre: to bear witness to a live moment. The nature of its power rests, finally, in the audience beholding it.

Wold 2

Now imagine, if you will, a little girl who cannot relate to the kind sweet and perfect child that everyone loves in the fable. Instead she relates to the Wolf, maligned and misunderstood. The Wolf as Hero. This is the beating heart of our new production at Little Angel Theatre. The story of a misfit who, wanting to fit in, finds a kindred spirit in the Wolf. Devised from the contents of a little girl’s bedroom, our show is a made-up world of make believe. Of storytelling and shadow puppetry. Of rhyming verse and mischief. A celebration of Fairy Tales, and our thirst for the formative experience they provide. Focusing on a relationship between a little girl and a gentle Wolf, our production explores the way we tell stories to understand the joys and horrors of the world. To discover the nature of empathy. Imagining what it is like to be someone other than yourself is at the core of the stories we tell to each other.

And so, in homage and with greatest respect to what came before, we invite you to Love the Wolf in our version of events. Perhaps he can hoodwink us all over again.

Red Riding Hood and the Wolf opens on 27th April 2017. Find out more and book your tickets HERE.

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