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Le Petit Chaperon Rouge at The Coronet Theatre

Playful, dark, murkily unsettling, Le Petit Chaperon Rouge is a subversive re-exploration of the classic Red Riding Hood tale. Joel Pommerat’s first of three fairy tale adaptations is a bleak expressionistic yet charmingly witty 45 minutes.

Le Petit Chaperon Rouge
Le Petit Chaperon Rouge.

Pommerat is one of the many who descend from the Peter Brook tree of theatre, and it shows. This is, of course, an enormous compliment, and the liveness of Brook’s style shines through; it is playful, physical and perhaps more physical than his previous collaborator’s style.

Usually, I would give a brief synopsis of the play’s premise, but this might be redundant. The format of the play, however, is somewhat unusual. The play opens on a near-empty space (get it), a narrator (Rodolphe Martin) stands downstage and, in a wry tone, introduces the play, character and setting. From there, the other two performers (Murielle Martinelli & Isabelle Rivoal) enter the stage with excellently exaggerated caricatures.

Pommerat has written about the so-called ‘Disney-fication’ of fairy tales and an unnatural divorcing of these tales from their original societal function as a method of transferring morals amongst an illiterate population. This play is a true embodiment of this. There is a heavy moral behind the play, but crucially different to the Disney films is that the story is ugly, characters are imperfect, and the shiny comfort of the story is nowhere to be found. And at just 45 minutes, the plot is not dragged out, and there is an exciting rhythm to it.

The director deserves credit for the concept and the artistic vision. However, the actors are brilliant in imbuing this with a playful characterisation. The acting is very stylised and expressionistic, everything is exaggerated and extreme, and this is brilliant. Murielle Martinelli (The Little Girl) is brilliantly childish as Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (little red riding hood), and Isabelle Rivoal is dynamic and electric as the mother then the wolf. This is all brought together brilliantly by the narration of Rudolphe Martin, who is dry, cynical and careless, which gives us a wonderful comedic element to the play.

The design sets the tone and disrupts the audience’s expectations. Pommerat’s designer Eric Soyer notoriously lights his shows from the back of the stage. This is hard to get right, but he does. It is a terrific way to throw the happenings of the play at the audience and remind us that the stage is mere feet from us.

I was genuinely scared at moments. This is a kids show, and it is, but that does not limit its ability to perceive and intrigue an adult audience. All-round success from Pommerat and Co., this innovative piece of theatre deserves all the buzz it is getting.

4 stars

Review by Tom Carter

Enter a world of magic from the moment you step through the door of The Coronet Theatre, which invites you to the first UK performances of the entrancing Le Petit Chaperon Rouge – Little Red Riding Hood, by illustrious French company Compagnie Louis Brouillard, directed by Joël Pommerat.

Using the beautifully concise, classic language of fairy tales, Pommerat rewrites one of the most famous fairy stories, preserving its original structure while teasing out a profound rite of initiation and passage. What results is a crisp, wholly modern interpretation of a bittersweet classic.

The man who tells the story – Rodolphe Martin
The little girl, the grandmother – Valérie Vinci
The mother, the wolf – Isabelle Rivoal
Set Design and Costumes: Marguerite Bordat
Set Design and Lighting Design: Éric Soyer
Sound: Grégoire Leymarie, François Leymarie
A fairy tale for adults and children over 8. In French with English surtitles.

The Coronet Theatre and
Compagnie Louis Brouillard presents
Written and directed by Joël Pommerat
17 – 21 November 2021


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