Little Red Riding Hood at the Arts Centre Hounslow Online
Red Riding Hood starts with an empty stage washed in blue light. Writer Jonathan Ashby-Rock walks on wearing his stand-out red Prince Claus get-up, and begins a monologue. He discusses the current lack of audience, as well as details on the new COVID restrictions for pantomimes. His comedic timing adds a lively depth – despite the lack of live audience response, he manages to inject energy into the simple set.
The night is split into two acts, the first structured like a parody of a crime-scene investigation and set in the woods. Each character is introduced through their account of the Wolf’s crime. Red Riding Hood takes up the role of detective, and narrows the suspects down to three key players, which elicits all sorts of absurd and hysterical shenanigans. The act ends in a flash of white and red lights and the Wolf’s very well-timed entrance.
The interval is followed by a quick and awkward puppet section. It’s an eccentric choice to enhance the storyline, and though it gives further personality to the characters, it does break the tension after such an abrupt cliffhanger at the end of the first half. Act Two is set in Granny’s house and has the characters visiting one by one, each with a ridiculous reason. The Wolf is the star of this act, which turns the preceding structure on its head as the audience anticipates Red Riding Hood’s arrival this time around. The result is significantly better than Act One: more deadpan in delivery, cleverer in its absurdity, and each character has the space and time to truly shine.
In general, there’s very little variety in the lighting, which limits the colour story of the play and renders it a little one-dimensional. However, the music does make-up for it, and the actors’ overwhelming charisma is undeniable. While clichéd, the characters are quirky, and each of their portrayals offers something charming; the Wolf in particular perfectly balances ridiculous and outrageous with cunning and frightening. The contemporary references, especially to the gaming phenomenon Among Us and Brexit, are wonderful pieces of satire. Red Riding Hood is overall an escape current audiences may well need.
Little Red Riding Hood is available to live stream from the Arts Centre Hounslow Online from 15th December until 31st December 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.