BATS Theatre (Out-Of-Site) Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington

19/08/2014 - 23/08/2014

Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science & History, Main Street - the Dark Room, Palmerston North

01/05/2014 - 03/05/2014

Fortune Theatre Studio, Dunedin

20/03/2014 - 22/03/2014

Fringe Bar, Cnr Cuba & Vivian, Wellington

06/03/2013 - 09/03/2013

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

20/02/2015 - 23/02/2015

NZ Fringe Festival 2013

Dunedin Fringe 2014

Auckland Fringe 2015

Production Details

Little Red is pissed about being the moral of a story used to control children. She’s spreading the truth of her tale to the masses. Are you ready to be liberated? 

6-9 March, 10pm
Fringe Bar, Cnr Cuba & Vivian Sts, Wellington
Bookings: www.dashtickets.co.nz $15/12  

Dunedin Fringe 2014 

March 20, 21, 22
Fortune Theatre Studio
9:00 pm | 45 min 
Online Tickets: $12
Door Sales: $15 
Dash Tickets (0800 327 484)  

– See more at: http://www.dunedinfringe.org.nz/artist-events/view/take-back-the-hood#sthash.UUDiDriQ.dpuf

The Darkroom, Corner Pitt St and Church St, Palmerston North 
Thursday 1 May 2014, 8:00pm – Saturday 3 May 2014, 8:45pm

19-23 August 7pm, 
BATS Theatre, corner of Cuba and Dixon St, Wellington
Tickets: $18/$14 www.bats.co.nz, 04 802 4175


Little Red on Surviving Post-Wolf 

“Being a fairy-tale heroine is really lonely, because no one gets your shit.” Red, Take Back the Hood 

Take Back the Hood is a one-woman, modern retelling of Little Red Riding Hood in which Red explores, reclaims and liberates her “story”.

“Grim, funny, brilliantly wicked… In fact I enjoy pretty well everything about Take Back the Hood.” – Terry MacTavish, Theatreview
“Humorous, clever, and brave”
– Lori Leigh, Theatreview
Nominated for Best Solo Show, New Zealand Fringe Festival, 2013
Nominated for Best Visiting Production, Dunedin Theatre Awards, 2014

As part of the Auckland Fringe Festival
8pm, 20-23 Feb, 2015
The Basement, Auckland

Theatre , Solo ,

Back to the Hood

Review by Tim George 21st Feb 2015

At its core, a good story, whatever the medium, gives its audience a question that it will hopefully provide an answer for by the resolution. Take The Godfather. Can a man separate himself from his past and his family, or is he destined to fail? The journey from question to answer is what provides the drama, the anticipation of what the potential answer could be.

This long-winded introduction is my way of contextualising my mixed feelings about Take Back the Hood. On the one hand, picking apart the story of Little Red Riding Hood, and teasing out its psychosexual implications and old-fashioned gender relations is a strong idea. A similar premise, albeit different in tone, served as the basis for Neil Jordan’s film The Company of Wolves. And, of course, one cannot forget Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, which remains something of a gold standard for this kind of fairy tale revisionism. [More]


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Funny and brave

Review by Dione Joseph 21st Feb 2015

As a teenager I was warned against wearing bright red lipstick. You know the colour. Not Rimmel’s deep scarlet or Revlon’s pinky red cherry version but the bright fire truck-slamming-punchy-Trafalgar Square-flames that would light up a room. Needless to say it wasn’t a colour that good girls (whoever they are) were encouraged to wear. Whatever.

But the underlying reason why such a colour was so prohibitive (and even today is still largely associated with promiscuity – unless you’re a Feng Shui expert in which case red is the bomb for your living room to suppress disharmony) – is not because of the ‘colour’ itself but because of the expected repercussions that have been ingrained into our psyche through generations of warped telling and re-telling of fairy tales, amongst other things. 

This is the core of Deborah Eve Rea’s gutsy one-woman show Take Back the Hood, which blows the lid of the traditional highly patriarchal version of what happened when a little girl happened to talk to a ‘big bad wolf’. In the fairy tale (if anyone needs reminding) all the characters are incredibly one-dimensional: Red is naïve, rather dim and while her observation skills might be acute she certainly is dependent on the strong manly woodcutter to save the day; poor granny is a quivering mess of preserved jelly and doesn’t get much voice either; and as for the four-legged intruder with old lady impersonator skills, he’s just rotten through and through. 

I recall these details because Rea brings a rich multifaceted perspective to her own stifled character, who has had to grow up wearing the badge of the wayward girl, and also showcases an interesting and brave look at the offender, even if it is only for a brief moment. Her main emphasis in this ‘Liberation Edition’ is to strip away the imposed shame and say loud and clear, “What happened to me WAS NOT my fault.” 

It’s a courageous message and it’s shared through a medley of music, comedy, dates with Death (she had a crush on him but he lacked the commitment so it didn’t work out), spoken word poetry, digitalised musical accompaniment and a giant wolf mask that comes complete with a deep canine drawl. It’s funny and brave, and the combo together with a bit of Kiwi sass, creates a remarkable show.

The highlight is undoubtedly Rea’s climactic poem that calls for a reclamation of choice, identity and an unashamed proclamation that it IS possible to be in the vanguard and not a victim – even when the services and the institutions around you serve you garbled messages and force you to wade through reams of red (pun intended) tape. 

As a whole, however, the show does still need some structural work. Numerous times Rea’s commentary, as powerful and brilliant as it is in short snippets, fails to take one step further and be as radical as she promises. Numerous narratives, her own traumatic event and a re-telling of the fairy tale wander in and out with few segues aside from the crashing chapter announcements. Her own energy seems rather scattered as she attempts to transition between doing promo’s for her own show to quickly switching to performing as Red, adjusting (sometimes without fully doing so) to playing a colourful collection of other personas including other female fairy tale characters. Her song while it has potential doesn’t quite work and after the power of her spoken word poetry comes across as slightly clunky.

Rather than show, Rea occasionally falls into the trap of ‘telling’ too much – and the potential to interrogate and fully expose the ramifications of swaddling generations of young women in ‘happily-ever-after’ cloaks never quite gets the interrogation it deserves. Less tech and brass band supplements are required for this fiery show.

All Deborah Eve Rea really needs is herself and her story. And that’s enough to start a REDolution.


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Personal and powerful insight

Review by Sophie Melchior 20th Aug 2014

Little Red Riding Hood is pissed off and she isn’t going to take it any more.

From the moment that Deborah Eve Rea takes the stage as Little Red Riding Hood you know that this isn’t a soft interpretation of the classic fairy tale. Red has taken to the road to make sure the truth about her story gets out.  

Take Back the Hood is a one woman play which intends to “liberate the story of Little Red Riding Hood”. With liberal use of swear words, especially in the first opening lines, it is clear this experience is meant to shock and confront.

The show is slick and well thought out in terms of its timing and staging. Minimal lighting and set means the audience is fully focused on the stand-up confession of the titular character. The faux off-the-cuff nature of many of the ‘improvised’ moments are far too practiced to be truly random, which I feel makes it a little forced at times. Despite that I do feel that I am getting a very personal, and at times powerful, insight into a character that we may not know as well as we think we do.

This Red Riding Hood has spent a lifetime trying to come to terms with the famous events at her grandmother’s cottage. She tells the tale from her perspective, the trauma she experienced, through the voice of an eight year old who took the word of the Big Bad Wolf.

Take Back the Hood is like Feminism 101 which has taken a detour via the internet by way of a fairy tale. The message is clear, and kept relevant by the inclusion of current events. It covers everything from victim shaming to ACC bureaucracy through to mental health. I find the most powerful and interesting parts of the performance are when Deborah Eve Rea steps out of the role of Little Red Riding Hood.

Coming in at about one hour long, the show has great pacing and flows well. The material does not lend itself to going much longer, but it certainly doesn’t drag at all. 

Take Back the Hood is showing at Bats until August 23rd.


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Tough, illuminating, pleasingly challenging

Review by John C Ross 02nd May 2014

Narrowly escaping being eaten up by a big bad wolf is not the only bad thing that might happen to a young girl, and that might bring about nightmarish traumatic effects that the grown woman would have to go on dealing with. A certain ‘honesty’ about a childhood experience of sexual abuse by another kind of wolf may help briefly, yet the person needs to construct and maintain a self-image and story that affirm her sense of self-worth. 

Amid much that is puzzlingly shifting around in this solo show, that seems to be its message. The character presented here has constructed herself as Red Riding Hood, and after an excursion into ‘honesty’ needs to reclaim her hood. 

At first, in the stage area, there’s a table with a cluster of stuff on it – keyboards, a drink-bottle, a large object covered by a cloth – and beside it a mic stand with a microphone. At stage left, there’s a chair with a guitar on it. 

The performer comes in, fiddles with the stuff, goes out. She’s wearing a large bright red cloak with a hood, a short black dress, very sparkly silver shoes with high heels. She comes in again, mutters into the mic, goes out. Very odd. The next time, she comes to the mic, requests a brief blackout, and then greets us, this Palmy North audience. Is this already the performer as character (maybe called ‘Red’)? The spiel is punctuated with often-violent chords on the keyboard.

She points to the ending of the Red Riding Hood folk tale, as with some others, as not really a ‘happy ever after’ one – there ain’t no handsome prince; the girl simply survives her scary experience. She brings in all the advice received about ‘honesty,’ with flapping of her red cloak. She brings in an American First Nations notion that you can exorcise the enemy by taking on his or her persona. The large object, uncovered, turns out to be a large, partial wolf-head, which she puts on, a couple of times, for the wolf’s sly, seductive chats with the eight-year-old girl.

Having unwisely talked with this stranger on the way to her grandmother’s house, and been persuaded to go the longer way, she finds when she gets there no sign of the old lady, but the wolf there already, upstairs and in her bed, where the child is somehow induced to join him. Thereupon, things get a bit vague, and uncertain. 

More recently she’s been going to group therapy and, weirdly, the other participants take the guise of other folk tale characters: the three little pigs, or Goldilocks, or whoever. Finally, there’s her poem. She had tried shedding her cloak and hood, but no, it’s better on. 

This show was originally created at Toi Whakaari, as one of a group of solo shows, and is currently on tour. Music (composed by David Gatfield) is quite a significant feature of it. It’s quite a tough, illuminating rendition of a woman’s experience, and pleasingly challenging, both for performer and audience.


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Grim, funny, brilliantly wicked

Review by Terry MacTavish 22nd Mar 2014

“You sure are lookin’ good, you’re everything a big bad wolf could want…” The seductive growly voice has us under its spell before the explosive entry of Deborah Eve Rea as Little Red Riding Hood, seething with fury, to cut the music and snarl, “All right Dunedin, I’m not here to mess you around. You want the truth, don’t you?!”  

Fairytales provide prodigiously fecund ground for theatre as well as psychoanalysis: not only do they originate deep in the darkest recesses of the human psyche, but they inform our childhood, from bedtime stories to carefully marketed Disney princesses.  Some of us are still hopefully awaiting rescue by the handsome prince. 

New Zealand playwrights have not been slow to seize on the opportunity offered by this shared experience. A year ago I was myself involved in a production of Sarah Delahunty’s extremely cool Eating The Wolf, in which it is Granny who decides to change the plot: “Who says the story has to go like this?” 

But Rea has chosen to make Little Red angrily resent the way she has been made “the unwilling poster child for stranger danger”, and this triumphant solo challenges our treatment of survivors of sexual abuse. 

Many of the Fringe offerings glow with the shiny-eyed optimism and naivety of youth – not so Take Back the Hood.  Rea gives the impression of having been through the mill and come out tough verging on bitter.  The street cred of the title is borne out by her aggressive performance.  Courageously she asserts the way to overcome fears is to confront them and inhabit their spirits, and this Rea literally does, donning a splendid silver mask to become the Wolf, seizing a skull to go on a date with Death. 

Lest this sound altogether too grim, I must stress that this is a truly funny show, especially Rea’s astute observations of the pathetic assistance offered by various NZ institutions.  Predictably ACC comes in for a very entertaining bashing (though how would any bureaucrat deal with a claim by Red Riding Hood?) but there is also a rollicking deconstruction of the trite advice given on TV’s Good Morning, with its naive solution of total honesty for any situation. 

In keeping with Red’s theme of taking control, Rea manages all her own sound effects.  Reviews from last year suggest these were less than smoothly handled, but I perceive no problem (even when a guitar string breaks), suggesting either she has tightened the mechanics of the production, or I simply appreciate a moment to adjust to a change of mood. 

In fact I enjoy pretty well everything about Take Back the Hood: the humour, the cynicism, the Kiwi feel, and of course the courageous message, which I do believe is getting through – I have actually heard a class of girls say, “Don’t tell us what not to wear, tell the boys not to rape”. 

Once again, I have made an excellent choice of guest, this time a psychologist who vouches for the authenticity of Red’s experience and gives solemn approval to the listing of victim support organisations in the programme.  As she departs, however, it is the recollection of Rea’s brilliantly wicked send-up of group therapy that has her still chortling happily.


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Comedy conveys serious content of discontent

Review by Lori Leigh 11th Mar 2013

Underneath the simplistic moral of Little Red Riding Hood’s “don’t talk to strangers” is a cautionary tale about the dangers of seduction. Implicit in such ethics is the assumption that the correction of the crime lies within the victim rather than the perpetrator.  Thank you fairy tale morality for unconsciously defining the way we see the world from a very early age. 

And thus begins the premise of Deborah Eve Rea’s one-woman show Take Back the Hood, where the title character ‘Red’ claims the role of narrator to retell her story and derail such assumptions.  The announcement of each chapter refrains that this is the “liberation edition”, implying the very act of voicing her story is freedom from the snares of oversimplified, patriarchal morality.

This is not simply a new version of Little Red Riding Hood, however.  Soon, it becomes apparent that this is Rea’s story too (and unfortunately the story of many women) and there is power in the personal narrative.

Red (Rea) is centre-stage, dressed in black, symbolically cloaked by her scarlet hood. Appropriately, she begins by cutting off Sam the Sham and the Pharoah’s 1966 song ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ with “You may think you know me, but you don’t.” 

Red would be alone if not for her assortment of storytelling aids such as her keyboard, wolf mask, skull on a stick (Death), and microphone.  In tandem with the use of these props is a plethora of performative arts such as music, monologue, stand-up comedy, and slam poetry.  It’s as if Red will use whatever is at her disposal to let the audience ‘know’ the real her.

The show is humorous, clever, and brave.  By not isolating the incident of trauma, it broadens focus by exploiting the fairy tale platform to discuss repercussive experiences such as teenage suicide, group therapy, and panic attacks.

Though its subject matter is heavy, the content of the piece is largely comedic. To give some examples, Rea goes on a failed date with Death to the movies, is assigned to group therapy with classic fairy tale characters complete with a needy Goldilocks and only one ‘Happy’ dwarf, and has a counsellor explain anxiety through the use of a balloon animal and pin.

Another source of the show’s wit and entertainment are the distinctly Kiwi references such as stuff.co.nz (the source of the headline “Boy Cries Wolf”), ACC, the Big Bad Wolf restaurant on Wakefield street, and Coastlands Mall in Paraparaumu, which unfortunately for Red has a ban on hoodies. 

Surprisingly, it is in grappling with this ‘hoods down’ policy at Coastlands Mall where the show climaxes in inspiration and challenge. After setting the record straight, there is an expectation and indication that Red will cast off her hood and forget her past as a storybook moral.  Fairy tale, after all, implies ‘fairy tale ending’, happiness or, as JRR Tolkien said in his essay on the subject, “joy”. 

Such a conclusion is often effected by a handsome prince on white horseback or “pakeha pony” as it’s ingeniously referred to here. But Red powerfully reminds us that there is no prince (or woodcutter, as it were) in Little Red Riding Hood and to deny our hoods is ironically to shroud part of who we are or, perhaps more importantly, who we are becoming.  The ‘happily ever after’ here comes not from a casting off, but rather from an acknowledgment: “what happened to me was not my fault.”

As I write this retrospectively of the Fringe awards, I will note here that I’m pleased Rea received two nominations for awards: one for best solo performance and one for best promotion of a show (produced by Phoebe Smith/poster by Hadley Donaldson). From its beginning as a Go Solo 2012 piece at Toi Whakaari, Take Back the Hood has developed and expanded for the Wellington Fringe 2013. This progression shows a commitment to the work and its need to reach a wider audience. Just as the show had a life beyond drama school, I hope that this important piece will continue to evolve beyond the Fringe.

Near the end of the piece, Red states, “We are the change generation” and asks, “Is anybody listening?” On closing night, I hear an audience member whisper the answer, “Yes.”  To Rea, thanks for stepping up to the mic. To the audience member, thanks for answering. I hope in the future our “yeses” become audible.  


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Comedy used as a powerful tool to drive away fear and ignorance

Review by James McKinnon 07th Mar 2013

Not to be confused with a hip hop song or an urban activism group, Take Back the Hood is an intriguing adaptation, or perhaps afterlife, of one of our most durable and flexible stories.

First published in the late 17th century, but likely over a thousand years old, Little Red Riding Hood has spun off dozens of adaptations in numerous media and genres (including a recent film version that Deborah Eve Rea’s Red loathes even more than the Wolf).

But as fertile as the story has been over the centuries, Take Back the Hood marks the first time it has been transformed into a distinctively Kiwi, one-woman comedy show about dealing with the lifelong aftershocks of childhood trauma.

Red is grown up now, and she is understandably pissed about having become an entire culture’s unwilling poster-child for ‘stranger danger’. It’s bad enough that when people see the hood, they see a victim; even worse that we are encouraged to think of her as in some way responsible for her victimisation, because she talked to a stranger.

To correct this warped view of her, Little Red uses the ‘performative arts’ – a blend of monologue, stand-up comedy, spoken word art, and music – to share her perspective on her own story.

Rea’s performance valorises comedy at the same time as it validates the protagonist. While comedy is generally denigrated as a trivial, guilty pleasure, Rea demonstrates how it is in fact a powerful tool to illuminate serious knowledge by driving away fear and ignorance. She uses comedy to mock and dispel various myths about herself and the cultural mores she has been made to serve, and by transforming serious subjects into laughing matter, she makes it possible for us to have an open, honest conversation about them – at least, if we choose to stick around after the show, and why wouldn’t we, since it is at the Fringe Bar? 

The material of the piece, first developed at Toi Whakaari’s 2012 Go Solo season, is mostly funny, provocative, and – judging from the audience’s response – highly effective. However, technical and structural issues impede it from reaching its full potential. The performer of this truly solo show does everything from manage her box office to playing her own music to changing costumes, and while Rea’s array of talents is in itself impressive, her frequent pauses – to find a chord on the keyboard, or adjust an effects deck, or scroll through a menu to find the right sound cue, or grab a prop – prevent the performance from building comic momentum. Rea has the confidence, poise, and skill to hold our attention, but the constant pausing has the same effect as frequent blackouts in a poorly-directed play with too much scene-shifting.

The show will likely tighten up as the performer gets more experience, but another issue lurks in the woods: while the range of vignettes and styles in the show is impressive, most of them are so brief that they only hint at what they could be. Several times in the show, Rea brings the audience just to the point of danger, then stops and changes tack. In other words, the show pulls its punches, and is neither as furious nor as hilarious as it could be.  


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