Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf ****
Lyric Theatre, Belfast
On a frosty winter night, the natural world feels uneasy, as though sensing that rough magic is afoot. Ravens caw, songbirds twitter nervously and wild creatures howl as a big, cold moon rises in the starry sky. Out of the darkness emerges a weird apparition, seated at a white grand piano, which will take on a life of its own as the atmosphere builds. Resembling a swashbuckling Keith Richards and sounding like a nicotine-saturated Tom Waits, Kyron Bourke's Big Bad glowers with hunger and despair, prevailing upon us to regard him not as a malevolent monster but a good wolf whom life has dealt a mean hand. It is a spectacular opening, with Paul Keogan's pin-sharp lighting and the first of Ursula Burns's hypnotic songs offering a tantalising indication of things to come. Paul Bosco McEneaney's singular imagination, here in collaboration with writer Derek O'Connor, brooks no refusals in terms of what is achievable on a stage. Enter the Magnificent Maestros, star performers of a long-established travelling show. Frankie McCafferty as Pa Maestro and Christina Nelson as the warbling, extravagant Adelaide, are a delicious pairing as they launch for the umpteenth time into the familiar tale of the red-hooded girl and her carnivorous granny. While their daughter Rachel (Róisín Gallagher) simpers prettily in the lead role, her shrewd, savvy twin, Rosie (Charlotte McCurry), complains of feeling put-upon and longs for a brief period in the spotlight. She should be careful what she wishes for. This is sophisticated family entertainment for all ages, nimbly blending sparky performances, vivid storytelling and haunting musical imagery.
- Until Jan 3