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.
Forest Forge Theatre Company Studio, Ringwood, December 1, then touring until February 12
- Joan Aiken, adapted by Russ Tunney
- Kirstie Davis
- Forest Forge Theatre Company, Nuffield Theatre
- Cast includes
- Michael Cole, Clare Fraenkel, Thomas Gilbey, Michael Magnet, Julie Rose Smith
- Running time
- 2hrs 10mins