‘The Big Bad Wolf’ is a sophisticated children’s play, written by the NIDA trained, film and TV actor, Matthew Whittet. Matthew was born in Hastings – Victoria, not 1066 England. With Wesfarmers’ Awesome Arts Productions, and the ‘AWESOME International Arts Festival for Bright Young Things’, Whittet brings us this fun Windmill Theatre Co production of the much-loved, children’s tale.
This 50-minute show designed for primary school, children, can be seen in the Heath Ledger Theatre, within the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia, 174-176 William Street in Perth,
The set is stunning. Designer Jonathon Oxlade, who studied illustration and sculpture at Queensland University, has produced a semi-symbolic, forest of trees, logs and bushes, all built of unadorned, pine plywood, and yet it looked more realistic than the usual highly adorned, artistic representation.
Little Red Heidi Hood’s delightful A-frame house is presented in cross-section, so the audience can see the house interior. Upstairs is the bedroom, and below a sitting room with a large, ‘talking’ armchair. The house is colourfully furnished. The Lighting Designer, Chris Petridis is from South Australia; he produced great dramatic effects without being too frightening for the children. Harry Covill’s soundscape was first class, but perhaps replayed at times, a little too loudly, slightly overpowering the dialogue.
The whole appearance is that of a vibrant page, straight from a fairy-tale book. Very clever.
The television reporter, (Ellen Steele) with microphone in hand, introduces us to the living forest, pointing out Little Heidi Hood’s isolated house in the woods. We can see Heidi (Emma J Hawkins) is still in bed. Living in such an isolated place, she has a lonely existence; in fact, she has no friends.
The reporter explains that the wolf who lives in the wood is not ‘bad’, just misunderstood and very shy. We are introduced to the wolf (Patrick Graham), who is a badly dressed, normal man but with fluffy ears and fangs for teeth. He lives in the forest with his obnoxious, overpowering mother (Ellen Steele).
Poor Wolfie has no friends; in fact everyone seems frightened of him. As the Wolf wanders towards Heidi’s house, the ‘wolf detection system’ starts. Alarms flash and loud horns bellow.
What will happen when poor Heidi actually meets Wolfie?
This is fun-packed, with an inspired script that is verging on pantomime. The show has real magic – the kids gasped, dancing, acrobatics, ‘a baddie’ – boo hiss, a loveable heroine and plenty of fun. There is colour and enchanting music.
Director Rosemary Myers has been nominated numerous times for Helpmann Awards. The 2015 movie ‘Girl Asleep’, which was also written by Matthew, won several Film Festival awards. This show really sparkled. The children really empathised with the poor downtrodden wolf, who even had sympathisers shouting advice to him.
The entertainment literally bounced along, with the energetic movement and choreography designed by Carol Wellman Kelly. At around 3 feet high, Emma (Heidi) surprised the children in the audience when she did several fast moving dance routines and acrobatics. Emma’s warmth and cheeky expression won over every heart in the house.
This show is certainly for 6 or 7 year olds upwards, but everyone left the auditorium with a large smile. The children deserve and recognise such quality. Great show.