Last Updated on December 23, 2021
The Royal Opera and Little Bulb present Wolf Witch Giant Fairy – Fairytales and Magic
I clearly remember the magical and defining theatrical moments in my childhood that shaped my love and passion for the theatre. So, I was delighted to take my young companion (and co-critic) to see Wolf Witch Giant Fairy, the Royal Opera’s first fully staged work in the beautiful Linbury Theatre since its closure in March 2020. This was not Sonny’s first theatrical experience, but it was a really exciting introduction to opera. One that combined fairy tales, storytelling, music, theatre and opera, and what a fabulous combination!
This enchanting family-friendly musical theatre production is a collaboration between the Royal Opera House and Little Bulb in association with Farnham Maltings, which has been two years in development. A process with storytelling at its heart, creating accessible children’s opera through devised physical theatre.
Samuel Wyer’s set design is utterly bewitching, illuminated by a giant moon that rises above the tall wispy pine trees with a central wooden rostrum and a tread behind, which is brought to life by Joshua Pharo’s atmospheric and colourful lighting. The costumes are breathtaking and hugely original, we especially loved the extraordinary headdresses and masks which added enormously to the individual characterisations.
A merry troupe of ragtag musicians set the stage: double bass, violin, guitars, accordion keyboards, flute and drums. The music directed by musical director Dominic Conway is inspired by wonderful traditional folk tunes with different lyrics and alternative arrangements, the soaring strings, upbeat rhythms and joyful singing created a ripple of excitement amongst the audience both young and old.
Peter Brathwaite’s mischievous sung narration takes you on a playful journey to a faraway land where fairy-tales and fantastical creatures collide. Here Little Red Riding Hood played with a lovely combination of naivety and confidence by Clare Beresford, is sent by her mother to deliver some bread to her grandmother (Jon Whitten), who lives in the heart of the forest. In true tradition, she meets a very wicked wolf who is marvellously portrayed by a hairy Tom Penn, a deliciously flamboyant character (who Sonny and I both agreed was our favourite) dressed in purple robes with fur trim singing in bass tones. The wolf distracts Red by suggesting she picks flowers, which are amusingly supplied by a green-clad actor lying horizontal holding floral stems, meanwhile the wolf hotfoots it to Grandma’s house and gobbles her up.
However, this is when the story takes an unusual turn, Baba Yaga (Clare Wild), an evil witch who eats children appears, she flies around in a pestle and mortar rather than your average broomstick. Wild, gives a great performance as Baba with her powerful soprano voice. A camp talking cat (Alexander Scott – who says he channelled a combo of Julie Walters in Dinner Ladies and Peter O’Toole into his performance) and a pack of hungry wolves help Red escape. Red arrives in a village where meets some extraordinary basket headed folk who are down on their luck. An arrogant bulbous headed giant (Miriam Gould) had robbed the villagers of their Golden Harp and Golden Goose. They ask Red to go to the market to sell their cow and of course, she returns with some beans, which grow into a giant beanstalk. Red climbs the beanstalk into the clouds to try and steal back the Goose and the Harp from the giant.
But this is no ordinary fairy story. Red’s family have hidden secrets…will Red escape the nasty giant, will Grandma survive? This innovative and joy-filled production is brimming with humour and imagination and there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. It takes you on a captivating journey, full of strange tales, twists and turns which wind their way to a fairy tale ending.
My co-critic really enjoyed visiting the Royal Opera House for the first time and said about the show “I loved the music and thought it was very well thought out and extremely funny”.
Wolf Witch Giant Fairy is a perfect festive show for all the family and one I hope will live with Sonny forever.
For this production, the Royal Opera House is staging their first fully relaxed run of shows – allowing for noise and movement within the auditorium, re-entry when needed, and including chill-out spaces.
Wolf Witch Giant Fairy – the Linbury Theatre from 10 December 2021 – 3 January 2022
A Royal Opera and Little Bulb production, in association with Farnham Maltings
Tickets from £4
Royal Opera House
London WC2E 9DD
Phone: 020 7240 1200
Looking for something different? we also recommend Circus 1903 currently showing at the Royal Festival Hall