In a year of unprecedented anxiety and uncertainty, I find it oddly reassuring that Panto is still going ahead. Other, less hardy forms of the arts may lock their doors, turn off all the lights and pretend nobody’s home, but not Panto. No, Panto is the one throwing wide the door, striking a fabulous pose and yelling Ta Daaaa!!
And thank goodness. We need a good dose of levity right now, and Red Riding Hood fits the bill nicely. Originally intended to be socially distanced lived performances, they will now, due to restrictions, be streamed online only for a minimum donation of £2 – bargain! It must be very odd for the performers to be acting to the echoing, empty auditorium – especially in a comedy, when the silent pauses for laughter resound uncomfortably. You’d never know it, though, as this troupe really gives their all for their virtual audience.
The plot, written by Jonathan Ashby Rock, is essentially a Whodunnit; Red Riding Hood, hampered by her eccentric fellow forest-dwellers, attempts to discover who helped to spring the Big Bad Wolf from jail. The humour is nicely balanced for both parents and children, and there are several laugh-out-loud moments. Even the interval brings us some unexpected entertainment – I won’t spoil the surprise. At an hour and fifty minutes, it may be slightly too long for very young children, but it bowls along at a nice pace and there’s always plenty happening on the stage to keep them entertained.
Speaking of which, the décor is very impressive indeed! The outdoor scenes are pretty, although a forest is a forest, isn’t it – but Granny’s Cottage is something else! Bravo, Hounslow Arts Centre. Costumes are colourful and flamboyant, and props always appropriate. The mic levels did vary somewhat, Eric the huntsman was particularly quiet, but thankfully this did not seem to impact on Philip Ryder’s boisterous, cheerful songs.
Writer Ashby-Rock himself plays Prince Claus, an amiable buffoon with a nod and a wink to one of our own glorious leaders. Daniella Piper is a determinedly peppy Red and Adam Russell-Owen a deliciously gangster Big Bad Wolf, but the laurels must go to Danni Payne and Emma Powell for an adorably ridiculous portrayal of a pair of inexplicably German pigs.
I know everyone is probably sick of hearing it, but the Arts are having a really tough time of it at the moment. For a very small fee, you have the chance to bring your children some excellent live Christmas entertainment in the comfort of your own home, as well as giving something back to these companies who give so much. Go on, you know you want to. Oh yes you do!
Review by Genni Trickett
Red Riding Hood, a multiplatform storytelling pantomime, allows children to engage with the pantomime in a whole new way. Online, offline, in schools and at home, this year’s pantomime has many layers of fun to discover for the whole family.
The Big Bad Wolf has escaped from prison and is on the loose! Join wannabe detective Red Riding Hood as she tries to discover the Wolf’s accomplice and who he intends to eat before it’s too late! Can you help save grandma and put the Big Bad Wolf back safely behind bars?
Help solve the case by collecting clues scattered across the borough of Hounslow. Meet all the characters and decide who your suspects are before the live-streamed performance. Visit the immersive crime scenes, follow a trail across Hounslow Heath, watch a live-streamed performance and bring this story to life this festive season.
Daniella Piper Red Riding Hood
Danni Payne Stickles
Emma Powell Husk
Philip Ryder Brickles
Jonathan Ashby-Rock Prince Claus
Rushand Chambers Huntsman Eric
Adam Russell-Owen Wolf Wolfram
Paige Jarratt Granny Hood
Jonathan Ashby-Rock Writer, Co-Director & Producer
Laura Hannawin Co-Director & Producer
Philip Ryder Musical Director & Producer
Sam Spencer-Lane Choreographer
Madeleine Edis Set and Costume Design
Alex Harvey-Brown Live Streaming Producer
Produced by Ashby Ryder Pantomimes. Supported by London Borough of Hounslow, Arts Council England and Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.
Running time: Approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes, including an interval. Interval length may vary to allow patrons to move around the building safely.
Tuesday 15 – Sunday 20 December 2020