Le Petit Chaperon Rouge – Coronet Theatre, London

Writer and Director: Joël Pommerat

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

So fiercely intellectual is the Coronet’s programming that its pre-Christmas entertainment is a fairy-story performed in French and with none of the props and masks usually associated with children’s theatre. Joël Pommerat’s version of Little Red Riding Hood is sly, funny and menacing, and not perhaps for the little ones.

Suitably for a director that has worked at Peter Brook’s Bouffes du Nord Theatre, Pommerat’s vision is austere, and his story plays on a bare stage, the empty space that Brook advocates in his philosophy. All that is needed for theatre is a space, a performer and an audience; there need not be further tricks or magic. But Pommerat with his light designer Éric Soyer ensure that the empty space is illuminated magnificently, adding even more drama to the familiar tale. Light catches the three performers from behind or from the side, providing them with more presence, or with sharp silhouettes.

Rodolphe Martin Is the deadpan narrator, slightly dishevelled in his suit like one of Beckett’s clowns. He introduces us to the Young Girl played here by Murielle Martinelli who portrays a charming innocence throughout. Her mother, always busy, clicking away on her high heels, is played by the hypnotic Isabelle Rivoal. She has no time for her daughter, and even shuns the girl’s gift of time. The girl is left to entertain herself most days.

Only occasionally does the mother takes a break from her hectic life to play with her; she gets down on all fours to become a monstous beast that delights and scares the young girl in equal measure. In a way, it’s ideal training for the wolf that she will meet later on in the forest on her way to her grandmother’s house and it will come as no surprise that her mother plays that beast too.

It’s a little scary in places, and the tale’s slight threat of sexual assault remains despite the narrator’s attempts to bring humour into the closing moments. Pommerat is keen to keep all the cruelty and violence that the tales originally had before they were diluted by films. Over the years Little Red Riding Hood has had many morals sewn into its ending, but Pommerat’s message seems to be for the present day, and it chimes nicely with the times.

Brooks has said that whatever Pommerat does on stage is disturbing, and because of that it deserves a warm reception. Finally, British audiences are able to see a Pommerat production for the first time, but Le Petit Chaperon Rouge may be too ascetic for some.

Runs until 21 November 2021

The Reviews Hub Score

All skin and bones.

The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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