There have been many re-imaginings of classic children’s stories in recent years, from gritty, dark portrayals of Alice in Wonderland to movies about Hansel and Gretel using high-power weaponry to blast witches away. In a world that seems to demand bloodshed and action of our favourite characters, it is refreshing to see one of them flipped the other way.
Big Bad Wolf, directed by Rosemary Myers, written by Matthew Whittet and imagined by Kaye Weeks, is the story of Wolfy (Patrick Graham), a ‘vegematarian’ wolf who is constantly misunderstood. We all know that wolves are typically to be feared in fairy tales, but from the moment Wolfy steps on stage you can’t help but chuckle. Wolfy is anything but your ordinary big bad wolf. He is a nerdy, unassuming sort who gives off an almost palpable air of ‘I wouldn’t hurt a fly’.
Despite gaining the audiences immediate affection, Wolfy struggles to make friends. His size, hair and fangs scare off smaller creatures and people alike, that is, until he meets Heidi Hood (Emma J Hawkins). The distant relative of the famous ‘Red Riding’ manages to look past his exterior and becomes fast friends with the wolf, much to the annoyance of the townsfolk and Wolfy’s terrifying mother (Kate Cheel). The pair team up to write a poem for the town’s poetry tournament, with much fun along the way.
Hawkins was the standout performer of the show. Her bursting energy and CircusOz background made Heidi Hood an animated, bubbly and loveable character. The ‘short statured performer with a bag of tricks bigger than herself’ supported and bounced off of Graham (literally at some points). The pair worked wonderfully together as if they truly were best friends. Cheel tied the events of the tale together well as narrator and voice of every secondary character in the play, including the world’s strongest flea and a talking chair. All three actors performed with the exaggerated flourish you would expect of a performance aimed at children, and kept the young members, as well as the older ones, spellbound.
It wasn’t just the actors that made the performance marvellous, but the team behind them. Jonathon Oxlade’s sets, which have become a staple of Windmill Theatre performances, were wonderful. Everything in the forest backdrop had a wood grain pattern, creating a natural, warm atmosphere. Next to the forest was an elaborate, almost Seussian cottage, in which Heidi lives. The cut-away cottage was a world in its own, allowing for many funny moments as the actors navigated through it. The talking chair that furnished it, however, was just a little creepy. In addition to the set, ingenuous lighting (Chris Petridis) and evocative music (Harry Covill) made the performance an almost otherworldly experience.
Big Bad Wolf is a funny, charming and sweet show that champions friendship and tolerance. It is a play children will love and learn from. But that doesn’t mean older folks can’t have a bit of fun with it as well.
Reviewed by James Rudd
Venue: Space Theatre – Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: 6-13 July 2013
Duration: 50 minutes
Tickets: $15.00 – $75.00
Bookings: Through BASS
Photo Credit: Shane Reid