Little Red Riding Hood

Fortune Theatre, Dunedin

22/04/2017 - 29/04/2017

Production Details

Written by Brendon Bennetts
Music composed and performed by Zac Nicholls
Directed by Jordan Dickson
Costume designed by Maryanne Wright-Smyth

Social Script by Shannon Colbert

Presented by Relaxed Theatre

Ooh Grandma what big ears you have…

Ooh Grandma what big eyes you have…

Ooh Grandma what big teeth you have!

Join us at Fortune for a school holiday treat, featuring Grandma, Red and the dastardly Big Bad Wolf… this kiwi re-telling of this beloved children’s tale is sure to delight the young and the young at heart.

Relaxed Performance – 2 pm, 24 April

We’re thrilled to be hosting a relaxed performance on April 24th for those with autism spectrum condition, sensory and communication disorders or learning difficulties.

22 – 29 April
11am & 2pm daily

All tickets are only $12

No shows 23 April

No show at 11am 25 April (ANZAC Day) but there is the performance at 2pm.

Zac Nicholls
Nick Tipa
Cheryl Amos
Lydia Benard

Theatre , Family , Children’s , Pantomime , Musical ,

1 hour

“Just show what you can achieve, when you imagine and believe!”

Review by Terry MacTavish 25th Apr 2017

Relaxed Performance: you feel your breath go out in a gentle sigh, and share smiles with similarly relieved parents as a mob of children ‘spank and scamper’ exceedingly noisily into the theatre.  The Fortune is hosting a special performance today for those with autism spectrum condition, sensory and communication disorders or learning difficulties. 

The challenge my invited guest has courageously faced all her comparatively short life is Tourette’s Syndrome, the embarrassing coprolalia as well as the physical tics which can result in falls and injury. Any venture into the wider world is a risk and an ordeal, so this brainwave of the Fortune’s is a holiday god-send.

Little Red Riding Hood’s story is about taking risks too: when it is a good idea and when it’s definitely not. Stay on the path, mother warns, but as we all know excitement lies off the beaten track. Brilliant material for deep delving into the subconscious – or staying near the surface with cheerfully stereotypical characters and stranger-danger platitudes. Whatever, it works.

This Red is a charmingly assertive little girl who has a powerful imagination and great aspirations. Despite her mother’s fussy cluckings she sees herself as the world’s greatest stuntwoman on her small red scooter, coaxing children from the audience for her daring tricks. Thankfully she is prevented in the nick of time by sensible safety-conscious Mum, who smothers her in goggles and helmet and knee-pads and huge fluorescent overalls. Undaunted, Red becomes the world’s greatest chef, concocting for Grandma a disgusting cake that is literally vomit-inducing, much to the audience’s glee.

It is the encounter with the Big Bad Wolf we are waiting for, though, and I especially enjoy the way Red turns the tables on Wolf when he sneaks up behind her, confusing him into participating in her game, the kids cheering as she leaps onto his furry back. And her plan for escaping his belly when the foolish woodcutter lets her down is brilliant in its simplicity, and cunningly foreshadowed.

The children spontaneously respond, frustrated and delighted by the characters’ inability to follow their helpful advice.  They become noticeably more stage-savvy, too, skilfully guided by the actors. “That tree is actually Red!” screams Declan. “I don’t see her,” retorts the Wolf. “That’s because she’s standing still!” “Well, trees are pretty still.” “No, she’s acting standing still!!”

Playwright Brendon Bennetts is an improviser and tutor with the Court Jesters, and trusts the performers to explore their own improvisational skills. The mostly young but experienced team gobbles up the challenge, aided by talented Zac Nicholls, who has composed and also performs the catchy music and fun sound effects with keyboard, guitar, and drums. Best of all we get to join in the final bouncy number, “I say Red and you say Hood, I say scary, you say Wood!”

The director is Jordan Dickson, award winner at Dunedin’s Fringe Festival due to the runaway success of his production of Queen, which also featured Nicholls and actor Nick Tipa in the cast. Dickson knows how to keep an audience of restless small people engaged too, and keeps the action flowing and the gags coming, against a simple set of projected images of spooky woods, and cottage exterior smoothly reversed to interior.

Tipa and Nicholls for years have honed their talents in the Dunedin Repertory Theatre Children’s shows at the Playhouse, including earlier this year the shocking Peter Pan Uncensored in which Tipa was hilarious as one of the Darling boys. His gift for comedy is shines again in his double role as the thick Woodcutter and unscrupulous Wolf, and he handles the excited youngsters with aplomb.

Cheryl Amos is completely at home on stage, making a cosy, bossy Mum and a really funky Grandma. She gets a great rap number, and she can totally carry off the frilly green underwear too, boldly designed by Maryanne Wright-Smyth.

Lydia Bernard, last seen at the Mayfair giving a stand-out performance as Cathy in successful Broadway musical The Last Five Years, is simply adorable as sassy Red: the audience as well as the Wolf could eat her up. The kids identify with her from the start – although that doesn’t stop them from immediately betraying her when even mildly threatened by the Wolf!  Bernard makes of Red a cool role model as she sings, dances and stunning stunts her way into our hearts.

The story is increasingly engaging and the audience is encouraged to participate in a way that makes every offer acceptable, and every child feel safe. The youngster in front of me who had been hugging a soft toy for comfort has now tucked it beneath her seat which she has somehow transformed to a rocking horse. No one scolds her, and she is confident enough to go on stage to become part of the forest. (Love the birds’ nest hat!) 

In fact the children, unpredictable as ever, are more alarmed by the green lighting for the deep dark forest than Big Bad Wolf rubbing his tummy, licking his lips and growling, “Yummy children!” – perhaps because Wolf has a really cute lisp or perhaps because, at the start, the actors carefully told us who they really were and which characters they would act.

There is a helpful ‘Social Script’ too, prepared by Shannon Colbert, the Fortune’s wonderful Education Officer, which explains the whole experience with colour photos of everything from the foyer’s Chill-out Area with colour-in pictures of Red, to the actors in and out of costume.

The actors are generous with their time after the show, chatting with their fans, especially Declan who lingers on, and I suspect thinks he will just live with them now.  Altogether Relaxed Theatre is an admirable enterprise, which other theatres plan to adopt, including the Regent for The Hungry Caterpillar. The Fortune has clearly taken to heart the play’s message: “Just show what you can achieve, when you imagine and believe!” 


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