RED RIDING HOOD
book and lyrics by Trish Cooke music and lyrics by Robert Hyman.
Theatre Royal Stratford East Gerry Raffles Square E14 1BN To 22 January 2011.
9.45am 11-13, 18-20 Jan.
1.45pm 30 Dec-1 Jan, 4-8, 10-13, 15, 17-20, 22 Jan.
5pm 2 Jan.
7pm 30 Dec-1 Jan, 4-8, 14, 15, 21, 22 Jan
Runs 2ht One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8534 0310.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 28 December.
You’ll sure feel good when you’ve visited this Hood.
An E15 panto always packs power and punch, though levels of invention very between the satisfying and the good. This year director Omar Okai has produced something really good from the strengths of Trish Cooke’s script and Robert Hyman’s music.
It starts as it doesn’t mean to go on – local and political. A new woodland way, suggested by a forest of cranes evoking pre-Olympics East London, turns out a scheme of villain Lupinus Wolf. Determined to overcome an image problem, he’s determined to be the biggest and baddest wolf, thereby putting Red Riding Hood in his sights.
Cooke’s script fills in the generation gap between Derek Elroy’s Granny – another glittering year for Elroy as E15 panto Dame – and Chloe Allen’s almost-teen Red, afflicted with sibling rivalry. As Blue, the rival sibling, lording it because she’s already a teenager, Ayesha Antoine has grown up splendidly, and vociferously, from the shy 9-year old she began the year as in Alan Ayckbourn’s My Wonderful Day.
Between them there’s Mum, a single parent on the lookout for a romantic life and finding it in Marcus Ellard’s Woodcutter Ben, really a sensitive vet (it matters for the plot), trying to live up to her expectations by wielding a bigger axe, before being relieved to find she prefers the little one he’s more comfortable with himself.
Yes, his chopper provides the innuendo but marvellously also helps develop the relationship between his emotional reticence and the strong feelings of Sharona Sassoon’s Mum. Best of all, the axe jokes don’t leave out the young – for size does matter when it comes to dealing with Lupinus. Annual Stratford baddie Michael Bertenshaw has his act refined in every detail, from macho wolfish posturing to an easy way with audience hatred, right up to the curtain-call.
Cooke contrasts two generations of woodland activist animals, including Delroy Atkinson’s fine revivalist Owl elder. Add a non-slapstick version of slapstick in Lupinus’ belly, plus three up-tempo pigs to keep everyone participating as Hyman’s score mixes pop with a couple of music-hall styled numbers, and it all adds up to a terrific time.
Little Red Riding Hood: Chloe Allen.
Grannie/Baby Owl: Derek Elroy.
Lupinus Wolf/Mayor: Michael Bertenshaw.
Big Blue Bossy Boots/Kid: Ayesha Antoine.
Ben the Woodcutter/Gunge: Marcus Ellard.
Hooty Owl/Bile/Voice from the Press: Delroy Atkinson.
Mum/Tripe: Sharona Sassoon.
Straw: Gemma Salter.
Woody: Darren Hart.
Bricks/Squirrel: Stephen Lloyd.
with Stacey Bland, Madeline Kludje.
Director: Omar Okai.
Designer/Costume: Emma Wee.
Lighting: Charlie Lucas.
Sound: James Tebb.
Musical Director: Sean Green.
Musical Supervisor: Robert Hyman.
Choreographer: Jason Pennycooke.
Associate director: Josephine Melville.
Assistant director: Christian Hogas.