The Stage

3 stars out of 5 “Refreshing”


Paislie Reid in Red Riding Hood at Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse. Photo: Marc Brenner

A refreshingly modern, meandering version of the traditional folk tale

In a big shake-up of a formula that has remained much the same for almost 20 years, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse creative director Suba Das helms his first show for the theatre. Writer Peter Rowe reworks the fairytale into a story about empowerment and understanding, inserting a handsome prince. But, for once, he is not just a love interest for the heroine. Played in a barnstorming performance by Paislie Reid, Red Riding Hood is a savvy young woman who takes nothing at face value and reveals the wolf to be a noble soul.

The show certainly takes its time getting to the point. Act I is not only overlong but heavily stuffed with padding. Only after the interval does the storytelling take off, with most of the familiar plot held back for a second act that really motors along.

Still, it’s a panto that has everything: from a strong musical score arranged by Rob Green to impressive acrobatics directed by Jack Horner. Grace Smart’s set is a pared-back forest, leaving plenty of space for the cast to do all the sparkling. Aminita Francis’ narrating fairy Cherry Blossom is stunning, while Keaton Guimarães-Tolley impresses with his delightful Prince Florizel.

There’s a great deal to love in this reimagined panto, including a heroine who, refreshingly, barely notices the prince. But it needs some serious trimming.


The Guardian

3 stars out of 5

The Rock’n’Roll Panto Red Riding Hood review – music is the star in an Everyman institution

Everyman theatre, Liverpool
The eponymous fairytale does not lend itself easily to panto – requiring some princely interference – but the cast is exuberant

Mark Fisher

We are deep into act two when we find ourselves outside the palm house in Sefton Park, where two Liver Birds in blue Lycra are sharing their wisdom. Played by Adam Keast and Ben Welch, they are all attitude and abrasive Scouse backchat.

It is not an extraordinary scene but it stands out because so far in Peter Rowe’s panto, there have been hardly any Merseyside references. Surprising, because the rock’n’roll panto is such an Everyman institution, on the go since the 1980s, you expect something with Liverpool written all the way through it. A show so placeless is odd.

But that is not what makes Suba Das’s production a stretch – and, at three hours, it is a big stretch. No, that is down to a show that is high on exuberance but low on wit. Rowe’s jokes are creaky – and signalling the creakiest with drum rolls does not make them any less so – and his script makes tiresome reliance on innuendo. For all the spangly costumes and boisterous performances, the actors have too little chance to show their funny bones.

It is also that the story of Red Riding Hood is ill-suited to the panto format. Yes, it has an adventurous and vulnerable lead – and here, a wide-eyed Paislie Reid leads us boldly into the woods – but even if you accept casting the wolf as a pantomime baddie, it makes little sense to present the grandmother as a cross-dressing dame.

Exuberant … Rebecca Levy, Jennifer Hynes and Robert Penny. Photograph: Marc Brenner

Rowe adds romance by importing a chunk of Cinderella (Keaton Guimarães-Tolley playing an undercover prince with the gawky charm of Michael Nesmith from the Monkees) and ups the jeopardy with a plot to steal the deeds of the old woman’s cottage. But the more he strays from the archetypal story, the more convoluted it becomes.

None of this seems to concern the audience, whose primary pleasure is in the music. Under musical director Rob Green, this is the show’s great strength, whether it be the wolf (Damien James) playing heavy metal while swinging down a rope or Reid kicking off I Wanna Dance with Somebody at half speed and finishing it with a kettle-drum solo.





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