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The Wolves of Willoughby Chase review at Forest Forge Theatre Company Studio Ringwood

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase has never been adapted for the stage before, according to Forest Forge artistic director Kirstie Davis, and I can’t think why not.

Joan Aiken’s children’s classic about two young girls and a goose-boy fighting for survival against howling wolves and grim governesses in a bleak snowy landscape is a gift for any company as family entertainment.

Russ Tunney’s script (the show is a collaboration with the Nuffield Theatre where Tunney is associate director) blends melodrama, comedy, adventure and a little spookiness interwoven with songs and dances.

Into the mix goes Rebecca Applin’s atmospheric music and Helen Stewart’s sloping set of panelled walls and jagged floorboards, plus Forest Forge’s trademarks of multi-function set and actors nipping in and out of costume and character at high speed.

Davis weaves it all into a glorious snuggle down and enjoy Christmas present of a production that will charm children and adults alike.

As the young heroines, Clare Fraenkel’s bright-eyed, feisty Bonnie and Julie Rose Smith’s timid Sylvia are enchanting without being irritating – which says a lot.

Michael Cole, Michael Magnet and Thomas Gilbey play everyone else from sinister Miss Slighcarp and her shifty sidekick to trusty Simon and coarse Mrs Brisket, with Cole’s wretched workhouse girl a particular gem.

Wonderful stuff – worth wrapping up warm and turning out on a freezing night for.

Production Information

Forest Forge Theatre Company Studio, Ringwood, December 1, then touring until February 12

Authors
Joan Aiken, adapted by Russ Tunney
Director
Kirstie Davis
Producers
Forest Forge Theatre Company, Nuffield Theatre
Cast includes
Michael Cole, Clare Fraenkel, Thomas Gilbey, Michael Magnet, Julie Rose Smith
Running time
2hrs 10mins
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