The Boy who Cried Wolf (Lawrence Batley Theatre)
Mike Kenny and tutti frutti have re-cast and enlarged their 2013 hit but it remains an "unassuming joy"
The Boy Who Cried Wolfis pretty much what you'd expect – and that, in this case, is no faint praise. Mike Kenny's typically inventive version of the old moral tale is an expansion of tutti frutti's original production that was a great success at York in 2013 and on tour and was recently nominated for the Writers' Guild Award in the Children/Young People category.
So, re-cast and enlarged, The Boy who Cried Wolf remains an unassuming joy. The narrative is framed by three bespectacled villagers who pass the cold days of winter in knitting – the whole play is something of a paean to the joys of knitting! They become sheep, wolves and the boy and his family (mother and grandfather) as well as putting on their glasses again from time to time to tell the story, sing a song or dance around a bit.
Another innovation is the boy's motivation. Splendidly played by Barney Cooper with much bounce and rather sweet sulks, Silas is a dreamer (he wants to be a tightrope walker or an astronaut), lazy, well-intentioned, unwilling to grow up. However, what leads him to cry wolf is the lure of the winter jumper festival in the village – all that singing and fun – and maybe this year his mother will get the prize? The wolf episode becomes a rite of passage: he learns that nobody trusts a liar even when he's telling the truth and he finds that to protect the sheep you need a bit of wolf in you!
Lawrence Batley Theatre is re-configured with a thrust stage and, in Kelly Jago's designs, everything sparkles, from snow to stars. Dominic Sales' music ranges from jolly songs to atmospheric music of the mountains: the revelry at the jumper festival, heard as if from afar, is perfectly handled. Selina Zaza and Simon Spencer-Hyde are versatile and engaging in Wendy Harris' light-touch production of a script that consistently finds the right balance of poetry, humanity and silliness to appeal to most 4-year-olds.
The Boy who Cried Wolf continues at Lawrence Batley Theatre Huddersfield until 28 December 2014.