I’ve just experienced a new kind of anxiety.

There’s the one where you go to a show and it’s dreadful from the off and you hope that it gets better or you’re wasting your life. There’s also the one where the show has had a great review and you’ve paid loads for the tickets and as you settle into your seats you hope it lives up to its rep or you’ve blown the mortgage for the month. But the one I had tonight is new. It’s where you go to a show with no expectations whatsoever and the first ten minutes are so good, so joyful, so entertaining that you desperately hope they can sustain it or you’re going to be terribly disappointed..

I needn’t have worried. Little Red and The Big Bad Wolf is sheer bliss from beginning to end. A rather unorthodox version of Little Red Riding Hood in which the big bad wolf eats Granny but then…no, no spoilers, you’ll just have to go.

It’s the kind of show that works for everyone. In my row, people aged 7, 27, 50 and 68 all laughed their socks off and were engrossed by the story. And there’s none of that stuff for the grown-ups that goes over children’s heads, with the exception of one throwaway line which had me in tucks. I’d tell you but I couldn’t do justice to the delivery. You’ll just have to go.

This production has great music by Patrick Dineen, a cast who really can sing, and the kind of songs that wake you up at three in the morning reeling round your head. I know, but go anyway.

Nina Hajiyianni’s interpretation of Kevin Dyer’s script glows with confidence and charm. Luca Rutherford’s utterly convincing 12-year-old Red – the best adult performance of a child I’ve seen for a while – leaves the path through the woods despite being told not to by her mother Liz Jadav and grandmother Simone Lewis. She meets wolfie in the louche, lounge lizard form of Harvey Robinson, who is as bad as bad can be. Everyone does lots of other things too, and they do it with great delight. Designer Sydonie Paterson has produced an elegant set that looks great on the Z-arts stage. And the floor, the floor….it’s one of the stars of the show.

Little Red and The Big Bad Wolf is only on in Manchester until December 16. Then it goes to The Brewery in Kendal for Christmas – lucky Kendal – and finally back to Action Transport in Ellesmere Port  – who made the show – and the Unity Theatre in Liverpool. The Friday performance at Z-arts is BSL signed. The signer Kate Łabno is worth a trip on her own, and she’s not just stuck at the side of the stage, she’s practically in the show. So, you know what I’m going to say, what are you waiting for?

By Chris Wallis

golden-star golden-star golden-star golden-star golden-star


Little Red and The Big Bad Wolf is at Z-arts until December 16, 2017, The Brewery in Kendal from December 19 to 31, 2017, and Unity Theatre in Liverpool from January 17 to 18, 2018. For all other tour details, click here.