Roger Hall’s RED Riding Hood

Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

15/11/2008 - 21/12/2008

Production Details

What a big smile you’ll have…  

Circa’s fabulous Christmas panto is back! The team that brought you Cinderella, Aladdin, and Jack & the Beanstalk returns with one of those great stories that everybody knows and loves.

Roger Hall’s RED Riding Hood – The Pantomime, opens in CIRCA ONE on Saturday 15th November.

And in the great tradition of panto, the story about an innocent Red Riding Hood, her widowed mother and short-sighted Grandmother, has received the legendary "Hall" special treatment!

A wolf has escaped from Wellington Zoo and is on the loose in the Karori Sanctuary – thanks to the bungling efforts of a couple of failed List MPs on work experience. He’s dangerous, and must be caught – and before the next full moon!

Meanwhile, Sir Roger Bounder, the evil property developer has other designs on this prime piece of real estate, and Grandma’s small adjoining cottage …


There’s lots of antics, hilarious jokes and musical goodies in RED’s basket as she sets off on her journey to entertain young and old with this marvellous magical treat.

And it wouldn’t be a Circa pantomime without everyone’s favourite Dame. Julian Wilson is back in spectacular form as Grandma as you’ve never quite seen her before. 

When Julian got married at the beginning of this year, he did the unthinkable – he moved to Auckland! But, RED Riding Hood brought him back. He just couldn’t miss out on this unique blend of panto fun, with delighted audiences hissing and booing with gusto, that is now truly a part of Wellington’s Christmas experience.

With Roger Hall’s famous wit, great toe-tapping music by Michael Williams, stirring additional vocals by Jessica Graham (Maria from The Sound of Music) and Paul Jenden’s amazingly creative costumes.

RED Riding Hood – is festive fun for everyone!

Starring a stunning line-up of wonderfully talented actors:-
Donna Akersten, Jude Gibson, Paul Jenden, Danielle Mason, Gavin Rutherford, Nic Sampson, Jane Waddell, Julian Wilson

RED Riding Hood 
Not to be missed! 

"Fast paced, packed with songs, corny puns & topical jokes – a fun night out" – DomPost (Aladdin) 

"A fun family romp … full of the joys of the festive season – so do yourselves and the kids a favour and go!" – Theatreview (Aladdin) 

15th NOVEMBER – 21st DECEMBER 2008

2nd  – 17th JANUARY 2009


15th NOVEMBER – 21st DECEMBER 2008
Tuesday to Thursday 6.30pm
Friday & Saturday 8pm
Sunday 4pm 

2nd  – 17th JANUARY 2009
Tuesday , Wednesday, Sunday 4pm  
Thursday, Friday, Saturday 6.30pm

$20 PREVIEW     –    Friday 14th November-  8pm
$20 SUNDAY  SPECIAL   –   Sunday 16th November – 4pm

$38   Adults; $30    Students, Senior Citizens and Beneficiaries
$32   Groups (6+);  $20    Under 25s;  $15   Children: 
$90    Family Ticket – 2 adults plus 2 children

CIRCA Theatre,  1 Taranaki Street, Wellington
Phone 801 7992   

Grandma Hood:  JULIAN WILSON 
Mother Hood (her daughter):  DONNA AKERSTEN  
Red Riding Hood (her daughter):     DANIELLE MASON 
Sir Roger Bounder:  GAVIN RUTHERFORD

Musician / vocals:  Michael Nicholas Williams, Jessica Graham

Set & Costume Design PAUL JENDEN
Lighting Design JENNIFER LAL

Stage Manager:  Eric Gardiner
Technical Operator:  Thomas Press
Sound Consultant:  Ian Hull Brown, Golden Horn
Choreography:  Paul Jenden
Asst Musical Director:  Tim Solly
Sound:  Jeremy Cullen, Susan Wilson
Set Construction:  John Hodgkins
Set Painting:  Garth Frost
Costume Construction:  Paul Jenden
Publicity:  Claire Treloar
Graphic Design:  Rose Miller, Toolbox
Photography:  Stephen A'Court
House Manager:  Suzanne Blackburn
Box Office:  Linda Wilson

2 hrs 10 mins, incl. interval

Naughty, topical fun

Review by Lynn Freeman 20th Nov 2008

It’s panto season at Circa once more (insert political jibe here) and this time Roger Hall’s panto’s Little Red Riding Hood (insert naughty insinuation here).

This show has less pizzazz than the previous ones and, being set largely in the Karori Sanctuary and with its mentions of carbon credits, Kiwisaver and Boobs on Bikes, is decidedly contemporary (insert topical reference here).

In this story a nasty property developer is trying to cheat Granny and her daughter out of their houses and won’t let them or sanctuary trees stand in his way. But he didn’t count on Red Riding Hood not falling for his (dubious) charms, the escape of a hungry wolf from the zoo, or a young man out to prove himself to his lady love.

Director Susan Wilson, designer (and Wolf) Paul Jenden, and musical director Michael Nicholas Williams are a well-oiled panto machine. The first half is a bit creaky in places. That’s the trouble with set-ups for the rapid fire conclusion after the break.

A Circa panto wouldn’t be the same without Dame Julian Wilson donning women’s clothes and make-up. The man’s a panto superstar, keeping the audience jolly and getting the most out of every one liner – and there are many.

Nic Sampson as the love interest DOC works was a crowd favourite as he vied for the heart of Red Riding Hood, played with vim by Danielle Mason.

The scene stealers were Jane Waddell and Jude Gibson as Morris and Boris, who were Chaplinesque as two ousted MPs moonlighting in a range of jobs. Gavin Rutherford’s villain of the piece, Sir Roger Bounder, was – well, think Wayne Anderson those of you who’ve seen the genius that is Glory Days on Prime. And it was great to see Donna Akersten back on stage as RRH’s mother.

Musically the highlights were the three women’s lament for the man drought and Sampson’s song about birds – the feathered kind, where kids went up on stage and some were clearly stage struck.


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A great way to introduce kids to the magic of theatre

Review by Jackson Coe 18th Nov 2008

At the opening night of Roger Hall’s Red Riding Hood at Circa, I was promised by a friend beforehand that I was in for a treat. With likable characters, cheerful songs and jokes for all ages, I have to agree that Red Riding Hood certainly was a treat.

Directed by Susan Wilson, Red Riding Hood busts out all the witty banter and gags which have kept pantomime such a popular theatre form. The mantle of the dame (aka dude in drag) is donned by Julian Wilson playing Grandma Hood. Wilson unfolds himself as a true master of the dame, demonstrating early in the show a jocular flair in his lighthearted banter with the audience.

Grandma is helped out by her daughter Mother Hood (played by Donna Akersten) and in turn her daughter Red Riding Hood (played by Danielle Mason), the heroine of the show. Both are astute performers, but Mason in particular injects a glow into her role which reverberates throughout the whole play. Red Riding Hood’s love interest, the DOC worker Lance, is played by Nic Sampson, who proves to be one to watch in the future.

Of course, no pantomime could be complete without the villain. Much to the delight of a keen and vocal crowd, the Big Bad Wolf makes various exciting appearances…but perhaps the real villain is Sir Roger Bounder, an eager property developer played with comic delight by Gavin Rutherford.

Yet my favourite characters of the evening were easily Morris and Boris, played by Jane Waddell and Jude Gibson respectively. Their overblown physical performances, often clown-like, are some of the best examples of physical comedy I have seen in Wellington this year.

The cast are fairly well supported by the show’s design features. The costumes are easily the most striking component and here Paul Jenden is clearly in his element. Built upon increasingly abundant reds, the costumes are consistent in lifting the tone and mood of the show. Although the set is a bit disappointing, it is beautifully lit by Jennifer Lal with greens and blues which offset the rich reds of Jenden’s costumes.

Pantomimes are a great way to introduce kids to the magic of theatre, and Red Riding Hood is easily the ideal Xmas outing for the holidays this year.


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Frantic frolic with a happy ending

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 17th Nov 2008

Roger Hall’s helter skelter Red Riding Hood begins with Julian Wilson’s gravelly voiced Grandma Hood cajoling the audience into chanting rather unnecessarily ‘We want a panto!’ and it was, not surprisingly, made clear, particularly from a vociferous and well lubricated back row, that was exactly what we had come for.

In Grandma’s long monologue that follows, complete with Shakespearean quotations, we learn that she lives in a cottage with roses round the door in Karori, while her daughter, Mother Hood (Donna Akersten), lives in the less desirable suburb of Brooklyn with her perpetually smiling daughter Little Red Riding Hood (Danielle Mason).

There’s a nasty mustachioed property developer, Sir Roger Bounder (Gavin Rutherford). He dresses as if he were a Mississippi River boat gambler, and he wants to cut down all the trees and put up houses and supermarkets once he has acquired the Hood properties. But there’s worse: he wants to take over the holy of holies, the Sanctuary, where the endangered birds live.

Then the Wolf (Paul Jenden) escapes from the Zoo and a handsome young DOC worker, Lance (Nic Sampson), meets up with Red Riding Hood and it all ends happily after frantic chases, running gags about beating hearts and loose floor boards, a sing-a-long, two al fresco candle-lit dinners under a full moon, and packets of prunes.

It is all played at a frantic pace with the sing-a-long in which the younger members of the audience are asked to join Lance on stage to sing about Moreporks being just about the only moment of rest. Even Grandma’s scenes in bed (surely the highlight in the acting career of the Stage Manager Eric Gardiner) are knock-about farce as pillows are continually plumped and visitors keep tripping over a loose floor-board.

The stream of corny, topical, crude, political, and occasionally clever jokes, like the physical action, never stops. One minute Red Riding Hood is wondering why a courier couldn’t deliver the goodies to Grandma, the next Grandma is admitting she’s turned on by Solid Fuel, while a $50 Snapper Card is offered as a reward for the capture of the Wolf, and I’ll leave it to you to imagine the jokes about prunes.

Though the scenery apart from the bed is disappointing,  Paul Jenden’s costumes are wonderfully outrageous and add considerably to the exuberant seasonal fun as does the, at times, over-loud music provided by Michael Nicholas Williams for Paul Jenden’s lyrics which are often sung at G&S patter song speed and consequently often hard to follow.

However, to cap it all off there is from the world of American vaudeville and the Marx Brothers the zany fast-talking, fast moving double act of Morris (Jane Waddell) and Boris (Jude Gibson) who turn up as zoo keepers, DOC workers, tree fellers in the pay of Sir Roger, and medical assistants every time anyone mentions his beating heart. Jude Gibson’s silent movie facial expressions alone are worth the price of a ticket.


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Review by John Smythe 16th Nov 2008

There are two wolves and three generations of Hood women in Roger Hall’s panto version of the ancient ‘rite of passage’ folk tale.

The big black furry Wolf (Paul Jenden) has escaped from the Wellington Zoo detention centre and is seeking asylum in the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, where his ‘non-native species’ status renders him alien, unwelcome and presumably dangerous. But he only becomes dangerously ravenous under a full moon.

The hirsute, moustachioed and snappily-dressed predator is a property developer called Sir Roger Bounder (Gavin Rutherford) who is ravenous for any property he can get his claws on, especially that nice little cottage at the edge of the sanctuary that has its potential view of the harbour, valley and mountains beyond blocked by native forest. He plans to fell them all for multiple townhouses and a supermarket.
The cottage is home to Grandma Hood (Julian Wilson) who plays up the ‘poor lonely widow woman’ act to her advantage, not least to keep her daughter, Mother Hood (Donna Akersten) and granddaughter, Red Riding Hood (Danielle Mason) tending to her daily needs, along with her government-subsidised home help cleaners.

All three Hood women have heart problems (cue a running defibrillator gag). Each is desperate, dateless and hungry for a man, although the older women are rather more predatory when it comes to that. Unlike Hall’s stroppier heroines in Cinderella, Aladdin and Jack & The Beanstalk, Red Riding Hood – who would love to know her real name – is fancy-free, inwardly thrilled by the prospect of the Wolf and passive in her quest for love, wanting the young man to whom she does become attracted to be the assertive one.

The man in question is Lance (Nic Sampson), a DOC worker* at the Sanctuary, and they are instantly attracted to each other because they both have red hair. One of the few moments of dramatic tension is achieved when he mistakes the women’s ruse to foil Sir Roger as meaning Red is more attracted to wealth and power.

The zany comedy duo is Morris (Jane Waddell) and Boris (Jude Gibson), two ex-list MPs now retraining as zoo keepers. They are responsible for the Wolf being on the loose and caper cartoon-like in their quest to capture him, and in their other guises ‘moonlighting’ as caterers for multiple romantic trysts and woodcutters for the dastardly developer on the fateful full-mooned night when everything comes together only to be blown explosively apart.

When it comes to acts of heroism, it is neither the woodcutters nor the DOC worker who save the day when it comes to liberating Grandma from the belly of the beast. It’s prunes. Brought daily in Red Riding Hood’s basket, stockpiled by a happily regular Gran, wolfed down as an appetiser to the main course … It’s alimentary. She is evacuated. Grandma has but a passing acquaintance with the Wolf.

What Lance does score is the ever-inflating reward for capturing the Wolf, which of course helps in scoring the girl. And the final song runs "Put your troubles in a cage and send them far far away" followed by their signature tune, ‘The Pantomime Whirl’.

Along the way, under director Susan Wilson’s pacey staging – with choreography by the multi-skilled Jenden – there have been some excellent creep and chase sequences, a well executed "mind the step" gag, many topical references and jokes, and of course some bouncy songs.

And, as in previous years, it still adds up to panto-lite-and-brite pitched with a knowing wink to city sophisticates, replete with opportunities for oohing, aahing, booing and laughing but falling short of its dramatic potential, let alone the allegoricial resonance and moral message that gave the tale its reason for being in the first place.

Just for the sake of argument, what if a modern Little Red Riding Hood panto did honour, and explore, the notion of a fresh young girl on the cusp of innocence and sexual awakening, dutifully visiting her Gran with food but susceptible to the predations of unscrupulous men? It’s not as if all that is not still just as relevant as it ever was, so why not work with it? Then there are the questions of how we relate, in our new-found wisdom, to predatory animals and displaced refugees – both well set up initially but taken nowhere in the structured story.

Wilson’s Grandma is Nice, as in totally devoid of the gorgonesque qualities usually enjoyed by a pantomime dame, and suavely adept at prompting audience participation. Niceness also pervades Mason’s athletic Red Riding Hood and Sampson’s true-green Lance, and they too score well in the audience sympathy game.

Rutherford’s Bounder, clad as a 40s Las Vegas gambler, plays out the archetype with relish. Akersten is saddled with an under-developed Mother Hood character. As she stands, Dahlia ("call me Daily") is all glammed-up as if for the races but remains rather redundant to the story. If, for example, there was a serious chance she really could shack up with Bounder, risking the assets and wellbeing of her family let alone the country not to mention the planet, and challenging standard concepts of ‘motherhood’ in the process …

Waddell and Gibson excel as cartoon functionaries. Presumably it’s because they never get to be fleshed out as ‘real’ individuals that Morris and Boris don’t finish up paired off – in classic panto tradition – with Grandma and Mother.  

Jenden’s Wolf is arguably the most complex character, misunderstood, lost and lonely yet truly fearsome under the full moon – which, incidentally, miraculously appears the night after a half moon shines.

Jennifer Lal’s lighting of Jenden’s telegraph pole ‘forest’ hung with with green fabric adds much to the visual splendour, as do Jenden’s costume designs. And once more musical director, arranger and main musician Michael Nicholas Williams works his magic with the songs, accompanied by vocalist Jessica Graham.

Will all this talent brought to the project it remains a shame that a story that’s retained its currency in our collective consciousness for centuries has been reduced to an inconsequential romp, as forgettable as it is enjoyable. 
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*For the record, the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary is a charitable trust run by a small staff and many volunteers; DOC is one of six ‘strategic partners’ but is not involved ‘hands on’.


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