Wolves are scary, okay? Especially hungry ones. But they’re nothing which a pistol-packin’ feisty young lass in a red cloak can’t cope with. Roald Dahl’s take on two traditional nursery stories – Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs has been metamorphosed into an enjoyable dance-drama by the enterprising Ballet Cymru to a witty score by Paul Patterson. The addition of a third tale might, however, have balanced the two halves of the programme better.
The choreography by Darius James and Amy Doughty is thoroughly classical, with intricate pointe work for the girls, complex lifts and some swooping tours en l’air for the boys. This makes no concession to the youngest members of the audience though, judging by the reactions at the performance I saw, they were as fascinated as their elders. Patterson’s homage to a range of composers – Mozart, Beethoven and Prokofiev among them – at various points of the story-telling are equally intriguing.
Dahl’s words are spoken by a tail-coated narrator (Sam Bishop) who also displays good extension. The beautifully non-PC heroine is Emily Pimm Edwards, neat of foot with the ability to command a stage. Her two opponents are first Daisuke Miura as the grey-breeched wolf and then Nicolas Capelle as his russet-trousered elder. Both wear an elongated animal headpiece and have slinky movements as well as a brace of hilarious death scenes.
Red Riding Hood’s Granny comes in two shapes. There’s Aimée Williamson, coyly bonneted and tip-toeing around with a series of bourées en pointe rather like a refugee from Cranford. And there’s raucous imbibing Iselin Ein Bowen as the toughest morsel ever winkled out of a rocking-chair into a ravenous wolf’s stomach. The three little pigs are well contrasted by Lydia Arnoux, Daniel Morrison and Mandev Sokhi, the latter a species of porcine Walter Raleigh.
Steve Denton is the designer, using a combination of projections to suggest place, time of day and the disappearance of the pigs’ houses as well as simple pieces of set. I suspect that the projections, like John Bishops lighting plot, will settle down as the tour progresses; these things take time to bed themselves in. The sound balance for Bishop’s well-inflected narration could also be improved. But these scarcely distract from what is both a clever introduction to the conventions of classical ballet and a theatrical experience in its own right.