This clever adaptation of Joan Aiken’s classic children’s book The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Russ Tunney is a meta-theatrical delight that had my children wriggling with pleasure in their seats. Under James Haddrell’s direction, the hoax at the centre of the show is so well delivered it left me guessing right to the end.
The tale of two girls and their wicked governess Miss Slighcarp is set in a fictional England that’s over-run with wolves. The ensemble production shifts from an earnest retelling with sensitive and naturalistic performances by Alice De-Warrenne and Cassandra Hercules as the two orphans Bonnie and Sylvia, to an over-the-top farce with Anthony Spargo playing Miss Slighcarp in the style of camp pantomime dame and all sorts of mishaps occurring on stage as the characters become too various for the actors on the stage to juggle. Reice Weathers moves between four characters with virtuosity, including at times hilarious vocal changes, while Adam Karim is a sensitive butler James and confidant Simon.
David Haller’s musical direction adds depth and atmosphere to a sparse but effective set by Cleo Pettitt, aided at times by a bit of dry ice to create a misty moor. My youngest particularly enjoyed the songs and declared she wanted to watch the whole show over so she could hear them again. My favourite was the cheese alphabet in which e is for Edam and J is for Jarlsberg.
The show is aimed at aged 6+ because of the the complexity of the narrative and the mild threat of wolves. This is part of a repertory double-bill with Pinocchio and is played by the same cast.